Talking To Strangers ( Suicide Talk )

A mental illness can last a lifetime. Someone with a mental illness is less motivated. They feel unwanted and unworthy. They start searching for things in their life to fill a void of uncertainty.

Sylvia Plath

There is a high suicide rate happening around the world. Mental health plays an important role; people do not often communicate or express their emotions due to mental health discrepancies. (Montel, 2009) In the book Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell discussed the story of Sylvia Plath. He mentioned Plath worked with receptionist named Anne Sexton. They were both poets and obsessed with death. Sexton came from a family with a history of mental illness. She often suffered from mood swings, anorexia, depression, and alcoholism (Gladwell, 2019).

Plath committed suicide; by sticking her head in the oven. Her kids were in the next room asleep. She was facing a divorce. Her husband left her for another woman. Plath was left with the two children. Gladwell did a study explaining how suicide by stove, decreased after Sylvia’s death. Her method of suicide lead to the government removing gas stoves and heaters in homes (Gladwell, 2019).  Gladwell’s concerns were the truth behind suicide rates decreasing.  The number of gasoline suicides decreased but did people find other ways to kill themselves?  People were receptive to killing themselves with gas because it was a peaceful way of dying (Malcom, 2019).  People do not have as much courage to jump off of a bridge because they know the pain that will come with it. They also are considerate of their loved ones seeing them in harsh conditions. Gladwell discusses “coupling,” the concept that behaviors are linked to specific circumstances and conditions. (Malcom, 2019).

Kate Spade

Plath was obsessed with suicide. She wrote a lot of poems discussing the matter. As successful as she was, it was not enough to convince herself life was worth living. Her story is similar to Kate Spade’s. Spade was a successful designer. She began her company in 1993. By 1999 her business was worth more than 34 million dollars (Gingras, 2018). Her brand was affiliated with other high-end brands like Neiman Marcus and Liz Carbon. Spade committed suicide by hanging herself. She was known to suffer from mental illnesses (Gingras, 2018).

Mental Illness / Depression

Let’s take a deeper look into mental illnesses. A mental illness is a health condition that involves your emotions, thinking, or behavior (Association, 1998). Distress, anxiety, and social activities are affected by your mental state. Trauma is the main cause of mental illnesses and a person can be unaware of their illness (Association, 1998). There are three different types of trauma. Acute trauma is usually after one incident, chronic trauma occurs after being abused or violated repeatedly and complex trauma is having exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events in an interpersonal nature (Association, 1998). Most people experience traumatic events and never take the necessary steps to heal properly. Without healing, people are prone to depression, anxiety, suicide, and an unhealthy life (Association, 1998). People are often living in a “fight mode.” They have layered internal pain, which can alter their development. They often think people are out to get them, which can affect their relationships. Drama happens and people don’t want to be bothered. Living in “fight mode” can ruin relationships.  (Association, 1998).  

A mental illness can last a lifetime. Someone with a mental illness is less motivated. They feel unwanted and unworthy. They start searching for things in their life to fill a void of uncertainty (Larson, 2011). They put their happiness in other things and other people. Depressed people can be easily irritated and unmotivated. They form a massive amount of negative thoughts and lose control of who they are. They begin to believe negative things. They no longer see the world for what it is (Larson, 2011). There are levels of depression based upon the amount of trauma one has endured. Some people are functional and can get through their day-to-day activities; where others are falling more and more off the deep end (Larson, 2011). Studies have shown those who commit suicide are at the level of depression where there is no return (Larson, 2011).

Covid-19 Pandemic

Since the pandemic started the levels of depression have increased by 56%. When things go wrong people are unable to handle stress (Rabah Kamal, 2021). If someone is already under a lot of stress and something extremely unexpected happens then they are prone to get worst(Larson, 2011). If someone does not know they have depression and something traumatic happens, then they are also prone to get worstet (Larson, 2011). Mothers were more likely to report higher symptoms of anxiety and depression disorders (Rosis, 1981).

Stressed Mothers

Kate Spade and Sylvia Plath were both mothers. Mothers carry an enormous amount of guilt. Mothers often perceive themselves as less than. If they do not feel they are living up to unrealistic expectations then they can feel uneasy and unworthy. When problems arise mothers feel dissatisfied or frustrated. This is one of the most common issues in today’s society (Rosis, 1981). New ways of thinking are being implemented in today’s society. It is important to become aware of the educational system. The information is there but you have to be willing to look for the information and develop an interest in it (Rosis, 1981).

Suicide can be prevented through a comprehensive approach that supports persons from becoming suicidal as well as persons who are at increased risk for suicide. Such an approach involves multisectoral partnerships (e.g., public health, mental health, schools, and families) and the implementation of evidence-based strategies to address the range of factors influencing suicide attempts, which is a leading risk factor for suicide (Carnall, 1998).”

Depression Solutions

A therapist is highly recommended to treat depressive illnesses (Association, 1998). It is healthy to express your feelings, problems, and life experiences. People resort to self-healing but it is not the same as having a conversation with someone. Self-healing is good to do in between therapy sessions, but a professional should be involved (Association, 1998). If you are mentally ill, then self-help can only help on a surface level. There may be deeper issues that need to be addressed and they are harder to reach on your own (Association, 1998). Depression is something that can return. You have to be able to notice the signs and get help immediately. There are levels of depression; moderate to severe. Depression can lead to personality disorders. If you reach a point of personality disorders, then it is recommended to have dual treatments (Association, 1998). Dual treatments are medication and in-person therapy (Association, 1998).

                Women can be their own worst critics. There are steps required to slowly break through your anxiety or depression. The first step is noticing you have a problem. You have to be willing to fix the problems. Every step after noticing there is a problem; is following through with all other steps until you feel stable (Rosis, 1981). To someone who never suffered from depression, it can be harder for them to understand a person with depression. It is always important for others to treat strangers with the respect they would want in return (Rosis, 1981).


Final Thoughts

Malcolm Gladwell discusses multiple stories of deaths that could have been avoided if someone or both parties came with a better approach. At the end of Sylvia’s Plath story, he states “Coupling teaches us the opposite. Don’t look at the stranger and jump to conclusions. Look at the stranger’s world (Malcom, 2019).”








Association, A. M. (1998). The American Medical Association Essential Guide to Depression.

Simon and Schuster.

Carnall, D. (1998). Website of the week: BMJ, (7173), 1666–1666.

Gingras, E. L., and B. (2018, June 5). Kate Spade, fashion designer, found dead in apparent

suicide | CNN. Retrieved October 5, 2021, from CNN website:

Larson, Ph.D., J. M. L. (2011). Depression-Free, Naturally. Wellspring/Ballantine.

Rabah Kamal, N. P. (2021, February 10). The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and

Substance Use | KFF. Retrieved October 5, 2021, from KFF website:


Rosis, H. D. (1981). Women and Anxiety. Delta.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email