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Treating Depression: What We Can Learn From the Tragic Suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

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What do the tragic suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have in common?

Surprise and sadness, absolutely. But also indications of strong, perhaps untreated depression.

So the question is, how exactly CAN you treat severe depression?

When news media reported the two recent deaths, many couldn’t believe it. After all, both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were highly successful entrepreneurs, celebrities who seemed to have the world at their feet. Kate Spade built an iconic fashion handbag line acquired by Coach for $2.4 billion in 2017. And Anthony Bourdain was a master chef, world traveler, author, and TV host who made millions. 

What led these luminaries to suicide?

Their stories were different, but in both cases it seems that mental health issues contributed to their deaths.

According to multiple news reports, those closest to Spade cited her depression and anxiety as the strongest contributing factors.

In Bourdain’s case, news reports suggest exhaustion and emotional isolation contributed to his deep hopelessness and despair.


Suicide and Depression on the Rise

The sad truth is that suicides like Spade and Bourdain’s are on the rise along with depression. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 15% of adult Americans will experience depression at some point in their lives. For at least 10.3 million U.S. adults, their depressive episode resulted in severe impairment last year. 

And each year, more than 50,000 Americans die from suicide, more than were killed in action during the Vietnam war.

"We have the science to fight this deadly epidemic. We need the societal will to make it a national priority." -- Jonathan Javitt, professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and CEO of NeuroRx

Javitt writes that we’re in the midst of a national mental health crisis, and we need life-saving treatment options for depression more than ever. We need competent, compassionate, and effective mental health care to treat the underlying core issues that cause depression and suicidal ideation.

Residential Treatment Centers for Depression

But if you’re depressed, how do you know what type of care to pursue? What should you look for in depression treatment?

Learn more about the various levels of depression treatment:



Depression Definition and Four Levels of Self

Did you know that one definition of depression is anger turned inward?

If that's the case, then how do we work with it? How do we heal from it?

In our Non 12 Step rehab, we help people to stop hating themselves. We teach them how to stop turning their anger inward against themselves. That is really important work!

We all know that there are certainly biochemical components to depression. The receptors and chemicals in our brain are affected by our depression; there is certainly a biological component.

However, what we see is that most people only address depression on one or two levels:

  1. Physical Level
    • Treatment with medications or with exercise or even with brain stimulation techniques
  2. Mental Level
    • Thought work and maybe some cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

But often there's a neglect of the emotional and spiritual components of depression. There’s very little work in releasing and healing anger. That's an emotional-level issue. That's not something that you can resolve just by working on the physical or mental levels. You need to dive into that emotional-level work as well.

Whatever depression treatment option you choose, you must choose a provider and a support setup that helps you to address your depression on all four levels of self:

  1. Physical Level - what we do
  2. Mental Level - what we think
  3. Emotional Level - what we feel
  4. Spiritual Level -  who we truly are
Don't just settle for physical-level interventions, although they can be very helpful. They're part of the solution, but they're not the entire solution.

Holistic Treatment for Depression

Human beings operate on four levels: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. To work with your depression and to heal it, you need a holistic treatment program that addresses all four levels.


Think of depression this way:

  • Depression is anger turned inward
  • Underlying every feeling of anger there is a hurt
  • One really important way to work with your anger is to learn to work with those underlying hurts. 
  • When we apply love to the parts of ourselves that hurt, we heal.

We believe that when we're able to offer love and compassion to those hurting parts, we not only heal our depression, but we also resolve the underlying anger.

How to Heal Emotional Level Wounds

Healing an emotional-level wound, is analogous to going into surgery for a physical wound. You wouldn't have just anybody performing surgery on you. You would go into a sterile operating room with professional surgeons who knew the procedure to help your body heal.

Emotional-level wounds are similar in that when we're first learning how to tend to them, we need to be in a very safe space with professionals who know how to tend to emotional-level wounds.

Once we learn that process - once we are empowered to understand how we can heal our own emotional-level wounds - then we can go out into the world and take care of ourselves.

But for that initial learning, it is so important to be in a safe and supportive space with people who know this work and who can be trusted with those vulnerable parts of yourself.

Treatment Options for Depression

There is no one depression treatment that’s a perfect fit for everyone.

Everyone is different.

The best option for you depends on the severity of your depression, the stage that you're in, and how much support that you need.

Quick disclaimer: This is not medical advice. This post is not a substitute for medical advice. Consult with your own doctor before making any changes.

Therapeutic Modalities for Depression

If you are working with a therapist, make sure that they're using evidence-based psychological techniques to help you to heal from depression.

Some of the approaches that you might use are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), behavioral therapy, Rational Emotive Therapy (RET), and Gestalt psychology. These are just a few of the counseling strategies that we use in our holistic depression treatment program.

It’s important to use an approach that actually has been proven effective for depression.

Just talking about your struggles without actually using a proven therapeutic approach might not move the needle on your depression.

Don't be afraid to ask your therapist, "What approach are you going to use? What type of therapy are we going to do?"

Then, do your research: Is this a proven therapy that has helped other people with depression?

This might sound basic, but if you're struggling with depression, sometimes it's all you can do to just get yourself to the therapist's office. You or someone you love must take that additional step and make sure that your counselor or therapist is actually providing therapy that has been proven to help with treating depression.

Therapy and Counseling for Depression

Depression-counseling-treatmentThe first treatment option that many people pursue for depression is outpatient counseling or therapy. That can be a really great start.

Alternatively, if people can't afford or can't access therapy individually, they may start with a group program. That can be wonderful.

However, if you are dealing with a mental health issue that's as serious as major depression, it's important to be working with a mental health professional. Layperson-led groups are not a substitute for professional mental health treatment. Depression untreated can be life-threatening. It's very serious; don’t take it lightly.

Outpatient Treatment Programs for Depression

There are some intensive outpatient and day treatment programs for depression. What this typically looks like is that you go into either a hospital or a provider's office for a block of time each day, and you receive more intensive therapy. Then you go home. You might go to work, depending on the level of intensity of this program. But typically, you'll just go to the program and then go home.

This is your job, living out the program.

Outpatient programs like these are not available everywhere, but they do exist, and they can be a good option if you have done individual therapy but you know you need something more.

Until recently, one of the only options to get help for severe depression was - to put it bluntly - to do something drastic enough that you ended up in the hospital. For example, you might have a suicide attempt or a self-harm attempt, or you might check yourself into a psychiatric ward.

The Role of Depression Medications

Medications and physical-level supports for depression are extremely important, and we don't want to downplay that. We are a medication-friendly program. That means that when you come to us, we do NOT do what some other programs do and say, "You have to come off all your medications, and we're going to establish your new baseline."

Instead, we work with you where you're at; we proceed with caution and a lot of respect. 

Depression-medications-residential-treatmentDepression medications are helpful. They can be really life-saving in a crisis. But if you rely on medication alone to treat your depression and you never do the mental- and emotional-level work to get to the root of it, then you're very likely going to stay stuck.

We now know that many medications for depression actually stop working after a certain period.

There are various reasons for this phenomenon.

Your physical condition can change; if you develop another health condition, it can affect how your antidepressants work. Then the receptors in your brain acclimate to the drug, so it stops being as effective for you.

If your antidepressant is working now, that's great. But it's likely not a long-term solution, because it might not work in the same way forever. You need to do that mental- and emotional-level work to get to the root cause of the issue.

At the same time that you're seeing a therapist, you may also be seeing a psychiatrist to help you with your medications and to stabilize you. Again, simply taking medication and just working on the physical level is not going to heal you on all levels.

Most psychiatrists - not all, but most - are not going to be able to give you the type of individualized counseling and personal support that you need to work on the mental and emotional issues. You will probably need to go and see a separate therapist in order to do that.

Physical-Level Interventions for Depression

There are physical-level interventions that people use to help manage depression that are not just medication.

Some people do light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD); others try some of the newer brain stimulation therapies.

Exercise has been proven to be particularly effective with mild depression, with research-backed efficacy.

Another important intervention is sleep. When you are sleep-deprived, everything seems harder and much worse. That is true for anyone, whether or not they have clinical depression.

You'd be surprised how many people don't address these levels and go straight into medication without working on their level of physical activity and their levels of sleep. If you’re only sleeping four hours a night, then you need to address that immediately.

Stress reduction is important as well. If you're able to outsource some of your tasks, get help with childcare, get help with housework, that can also be tremendously helpful, especially if you're in crisis.

These interventions are particularly helpful if you're dealing with mild or more situational depression. But what do you do if you have tried all of that, you have been down that road before, and it hasn't helped you to heal fully?

Residential Treatment for Depression

If you've tried outpatient treatment for depression and it's just not moving the needle, you may want to consider residential (inpatient) depression treatment.

"In some people, depression is so severe that a hospital stay is needed. This may be necessary if you cannot care for yourself or if you're in immediate danger of harming yourself or someone else. Psychiatric treatment at a hospital can help you keep calm and safe until your mood stabilizes."
 -- Mayo Clinic 

Hospitalization and inpatient treatment can save your life.

The stigma surrounding mental health care has lessened considerably, but in our residential depression program we still talk to a lot of people who are very reluctant to get this level of support because they wonder, "What would this look like to those around me?"

But when you are in deep crisis, the most caring thing to do is to make use of emergency services. If you are a danger to yourself, you might need to be in a psychiatric ward and having a 72-hour hold for your own protection. That might sound scary, but it's a lot less scary than the alternative.

If you or someone you love is in crisis right now, call 911 and call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255 immediately.

Hospitals can and do save lives, and if you are in a severe crisis, that may be the very best place for you to be. But what do you do if that's not a fit for you?

residential-depression-treatmentSay that you're relatively stable. Maybe you've been to the hospital, but you're still deeply depressed and you don't feel ready at all to return to your regular life.

You might get referred to a day treatment program, but maybe not. Even if it is an option, that might not be enough support.

That's why there are more residential treatment centers for depression; they are springing up to meet this need. A lot of people are finding themselves in this gap. They can’t stay in the hospital because their insurance has run out or they've stabilized some, but outpatient treatment is not providing them the support that they need.

Part of what we do at The Clearing is to help to bridge that gap.

What to Look for in Residential Treatment for Depression

If you are hesitant to seek inpatient treatment for depression because you don't have a substance abuse issue, you're blocking yourself from a source of really positive support. What you're looking for is the mental health treatment, and you can get that as part of an addiction recovery program.

The key is that you need more professional counseling hours. You need more time to work through your mental and emotional issues. The place that you’ll typically find that in an inpatient setting is an addiction treatment facility.

Before you enroll in a program, be rigorous about checking how much professional counseling they provide. Some programs, sadly, will only provide the state-mandated minimum number of hours per week.

This number varies state to state, but depending on where you live or where you're going, it could be as little as two or three hours of counseling a week in an inpatient program! In that case, you would do better just going to outpatient treatment or scheduling multiple appointments with a therapist.

Do not pursue a program that does not have a significant number of professional counseling hours, because that's what's going to make the difference when it actually comes to healing from your depression.

Depression Treatment at The Clearing

We work with people whose depression is serious. It is impacting their daily life to a significant degree, and they need more than one hour a week of therapy.

We primarily work with people who have a dual diagnosis: a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety in addition to a substance abuse issue. However, we also work with people who have mental health conditions, such as deep depression and crippling anxiety, and no substance abuse issue.

Either way, we work with the underlying mental and emotional issues that have gone untreated.
In our Program, every Participant gets 120 hours of professional counseling, as both our individual and group therapy sessions are led by professionals. We go way above and beyond our state-mandated minimum, and that's why we have an over 80% success rate of graduates who are in recovery.

We help you to create the life you want, and the way that we do that is by diving into those underlying core issues. We teach you how to take care of the part of you that is hurt and angry and manifesting itself in your depression. The depression's not going to heal unless you work with what's below it: hurt, anger, trauma, loss, grief, or despair.

Often, this starts very early in life. We have Participants who can remember being six years old and already showing symptoms of depression, because they were already hurting. They had anger, but there was no way for them to express it. There was no safe place for them, and they started turning that anger inward.

If that's you, you're not broken. You're not irreparably damaged. You can heal from depression. You were in an environment where it wasn't safe to heal, and you didn't have the tools, the knowledge of how to do it.

Call Us Today

If you or someone you love needs to talk about your treatment options for depression, we're happy to help. Give us a confidential call at 425-275-8600.

Download eBook:  Healing Underlying Core Issues

Caroline McGraw

This post was written by Caroline McGraw

In addition to her work as "the voice of The Clearing", Caroline Garnet McGraw writes about trading perfectionism for possibility at A Wish Come Clear. Visit and receive your free Perfectionist Recovery Toolkit today!

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