Two prominent suicides have the nation talking. Here are helpful resources in Southwest Florida

The deaths by suicide this week of two famous people drive home the need for more attention on mental illness and suicide prevention, experts say.

The deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and TV, travel and food host Anthony Bourdain reinforce that depression has no boundaries and can afflict people from all walks of life.

“Mental illness touches all,” said Vacharee Howard, executive vice president of the Lee County affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Depression doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t matter how much money you make.”

Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade

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She said the mental health referral source has not seen a spike in recent days of calls for help after the deaths of Spade and Bourdain.

But there is a huge need for the nation to enhance resources to meet the growing mental health crisis, she said.

The Lee NAMI office, which does not operate a suicide helpline, sees calls for referrals increase when winter residents return, she said. They are accustomed to more resources available being available in their northern communities than in Florida, Howard said.

U.S. suicide rate has risen since 1999

The nation’s suicide rate has risen nearly 30 percent since 1999, according to a report released Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Suicide has increased among all ethnic groups, among men and women, and in both rural and urban areas. The CDC said suicide claims 45,000 lives annually; it is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

Suicide is rarely due to a single factor, the CDC reported.

The Collier County affiliate of NAMI operates a statewide call line where a caller can speak with certified recovery peer specialists about what they are experiencing, said Pam Baker, executive director of Collier NAMI. The certified recovery peer specialists have experienced a mental health illness in their past, she said.

“They get training how to interact with someone and when to turn that call over to the national suicide prevention hotline,” she said. “It is a friendly voice at the other end.”

The deaths of Spade and Bourdain reinforce that “even people who are apparently doing very well and successful aren’t actually doing well,” Baker said.

It’s crucial for people to speak to loved ones about what’s going on in their lives; suicide is no longer an aberration, Baker said.

All communities need to come together and develop a community strategy to address mental illness, she said.

More:Kate Spade, legendary handbag designer, found dead of suicide

More:Anthony Bourdain, host of CNN's 'Parts Unknown' and best-selling author, dies at 61

This past week, Collier leaders and mental health organizations, like NAMI and the David Lawrence Center, held a workshop to continue an initiative that Commission Chairman Andy Solis began last year. The goal is to develop a plan for Collier to better coordinate and expand services for mental health and substance abuse treatment.

David Lawrence’s emergency services assessment center and its crisis stabilization units for adults and children continue to see growing numbers of admissions of people with suicidal thoughts, said Nancy Dauphinais, chief operating officer of the nonprofit mental health center. David Lawrence has 30 mental health crisis beds.

“We are on overflow, demand is high,” she said, but she added that she cannot link the volume of people with a mental health crisis to the deaths of Spade and Bourdain. “There is no anecdotal connection, but we are definitely extremely busy.”

The deaths of the two celebrities will make families more aware of the risks, and more will call on behalf of their loved ones, as David Lawrence saw after the school shooting in Parkland on Feb. 14, she said.

Do you know the warning signs for suicide?

David Lawrence offered these warning signs:

  • People talking about killing themselves, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, feeling trapped and unbearable pain
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs; looking for ways to end their lives, including online searches; withdrawing from activities; isolation; sleeping too much or too little; and visiting people to say goodbye. Other behaviors include giving away prized possessions and aggression.
  • Depression, anxiety, loss of interest, irritability, shame/humiliation, agitation/anger and relief/sudden improvement.

In addition, there are risk factors that are distinguished from warning signs that include health conditions, environmental factors and historical factors like previous suicide attempts.

One of the environmental risk factors is exposure to another person’s suicide, according to David Lawrence.

Ben Levenson, who is in recovery and is the founder of Origins Behavioral HealthCare, a nationally accredited dual diagnosis treatment center, said there is an important lesson from Bourdain’s death.

Bourdain had publicly declared himself to have used heroin and cocaine in his 20s and believed he had beaten his addiction, and that likely contributed to his demise, like it has for millions of others, Levenson said.

“No treatment I’m aware of will unpickle that cucumber,” Levenson said. “He thought his case was different. Unfortunately, addicts who fail to maintain a stable and full recovery show dramatically increased morbidity and mortality rates with particular vulnerabilities for suicidality and other serious psychological challenges.

"Had he been sober, I believe he would have been able to better navigate whatever life challenges he was facing when he decided to end his life. Another bright flame extinguished.”

How to get help

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 1-800-273-8255

NAMI National Information Helpline — 1-800- 950-NAMI

Collier NAMI certified recovery peer specialist — 1-800-945-1355.

David Lawrence Center — 1-239-455-8500

SalusCare — 239-275-4242

Learn the warning signs — and

National Institutes of Mental Health —