These tragedies have ignited a conversation in the news and on social media about the significant rise in suicide rates in the United States. Just a day before Bourdain’s death, the Centers for Disease Control released a new report with more dismal news:
Deaths by suicide have increased by 30% since 1999, including 45,000 lives in 2016 alone. And it isn’t just amongst celebrities, the report shows an increase amongst all races, ethnic groups and age ranges, except adults older than 75.
As reported in TIME, the CDC also showed more than half of the suicides were of people who did not have a known mental health condition, “highlighting the complicated nature of suicide.”
Precise causes can be hard to pinpoint, but Dr. Kevin Gilliland, a psychologist interviewed by PEOPLE, said he believes social media plays a part.
“The internet and social media have increased the opportunity to bully, and feed into our own perceptions of our happiness and joy,” Gilliland says.
And as proven by the recent high-profile suicides, even those who have adoring fans and celebrity success are not immune to the tragedy of mental health illnesses, anxiety and depression.
“If you want to feel bad about yourself, just spend some time on social media. One of our challenges is using social media and the internet in a thoughtful way, which we are not doing yet. We have to become more responsible,” says Gilliland.
That responsibility has become a large focus of parents, youth advocates and educators everywhere as the suicide epidemic strikes the heart of teens wrapped up in a digital world.
In a recent interview WebSafety conducted with youth advocate, Collin Kartchner, he emphasized the importance of people, teens especially, getting real face time with caring people.
“Depression and anxiety among our kids is skyrocketing, because they’re not making real life connections anymore, it’s all about this virtual life,” Kartchner says.
More than ever, families are seeking ways to connect, to avoid the loss of life. And although these recent tragedies are just that, a tragedy, they serve as a valuable reminder to understand the people in your life who may be struggling.
“Talking saves lives,” Gilliland says. “Ask them if they have had the thought or feeling like it would be better to ‘just not be alive.’ Express empathy for the person and offer to help get them connected to people that can help them with how they are feeling.”
Gilliland tells PEOPLE, it is also important to help someone who may be struggling with mental health issues to create a plan and then help them follow through.
WebSafety was created to help families escape the isolation that comes from digital use and leads to depression, anxiety, cyberbullying and suicide. Please use our free trial or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need assistance creating a plan to improve how your family connects and removes digital isolation from your home.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.