Last week, talented fashion designer Kate Spade took her own life. While fans are shocked, one thing remains a constant: no one knew she struggled with mental health. It’s all too common of a theme; fellow celebrities Robin Williams, Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Cobain, Chester Bennington all similarly took their lives, but fans did not know of their mental struggles. If these stars had shared their struggles and talked about it with fans, would they still be with us?

Could publically sharing their struggles have helped?

Spade’s husband, Andy Spade, released a statement that his wife was seeking help, “She was actively seeking help for depression and anxiety over the last five years, seeing a doctor on a regular basis and taking medication for both depression and anxiety. There was no substance or alcohol abuse. There were no business problems.”

“There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock.,” continued Spade.

If Kate had shared her struggles, fans would have more than likely flooded her with messages of support – while at the same time helping to destigmatize mental health.

Creating a discussion

Cancer has touched nearly everyone in the world in some form; maybe they know someone who had it, or they themselves had a form of cancer. In 1996 cycling sensation Lance Armstrong rocketed into the news – an aggressive form of testicular cancer spread to his lymph node, lungs and brain. His battle with the disease was publically documented, and men were more aware of the dangers of testicular cancer than ever before. They were also more educated to watch for the warning signs thanks to the chatter that had been created around Lance’s fight and overcome of the disease.

Christina Applegate is the daughter of a breast cancer survivor. Knowing the genetic risks, Applegate underwent early screening starting at age 30. In 2008, at the age of 36, she was diagnosed with breast cancer after being referred for an MRI. Soon after, she had a double mastectomy and became an advocate for early detection and founded her own organization called Right Action for Women. Thanks to Applegate and the talk about her fight – as well as advocacy – more women were interested in breast cancer screening.

Creating a discussion doesn’t have to be around a celebrity; do you have a family member or someone in the community who is suffering from a disease? You’ve probably done your research or talked to them about what they’re suffering from, thus creating a discussion. What if someone suffering from depression or bipolar disease were to talk about their struggles publically? People would more than likely support them, right? It’s been shown to happen with celebrities who have shared their own battles.

When supermodel Chrissy Teigen opened up about her postpartum depression, fans flooded her with support and encouraged many mothers to talk about their struggle with it as well. Country Queen Dolly Parton talked about her depression and thoughts of suicide, again lessening the stigmatism around mental health.

Celebrity suicides promote copycat deaths

Suicides in Japan increased after pop singer Yukiko Okada took her life in 1986 – the number then quickly returned to normal, leading to the dubbing of “Yukiko syndrome.”

A study published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture took a look at how celebrity suicides can cause thoughts of suicide in people. They conducted their study in August of 2014 shortly after the suicide of Robin Williams. Participants answered a questionnaire that gauged their depression and suicidal thoughts. They were also asked to jot down thoughts about the suicide of Willams, the death of Lauren Bacall due to natural causes, and the 2013 overdose of Cory Monteith. To balance it out, other participants were asked their thoughts on the celebrities lives, not their deaths. The participants were then asked about their depressed mood and if they felt suicide was acceptable. Those who were ranked high in depression were more than likely to say that suicide was normal or okay.

Let’s talk about it

While there is still very much stigma around talking about mental health, we need to be more open. By creating a discussion people can be educated about mental diseases while the person talking might not feel as alone as they once did.

The Bell Let’s Talk campaign brings people together once a year; it creates a lot of chatter regarding mental health. Bell donates money for mental health in Canada when people use the hashtag #bellletstalk on social media, or when they make phone calls or texts using the provider’s services. Many people share their mental health battles over social media with followers. It creates a discussion and makes people realize that anyone can suffer from these diseases. If people could talk freely like they do on that day, people wouldn’t feel so alone in their battle.

Let’s do everything we can to keep the conversations going.