Latest News & Current Events

Keep L'Wren Scott's death free of gender stereotypes

What makes a beautiful, successful and extremely rich woman take her own life? For those who believe that depression is the sole preserve of the poor and ugly, the suspected suicide of designer L'Wren Scott is as baffling as it is heartbreaking, unless you go with some of the mainstream media who seem to believe that a childless, unmarried woman has every reason in the world to be depressed.

Comments such as "L'Wren knew that … Mick had no time for matrimony and little for monogamy. She seemed to be playing a long game. But after chalking up 12 years by his side, she could hardly be blamed for hoping for more."  And even more stunning, besides, despite renovating their multimillion-dollar Manhattan apartment 10 years ago to include "a nursery and nanny quarters … no baby ever arrived".

Really, at 49, what else is a childless woman unable to convince her long-term partner to marry her to do but "plunge into depression"?

Mental-health workers and charities have struggled for years to get the message out that depression and suicidal thoughts are not necessarily triggered by "bad luck". But what much reporting of these tragic events shows time after time is a refusal to believe this, allied with the worst kinds of gender stereotypes

This affects men as much, if not more, than women. A report by the Samaritans into the increasing suicide rates among men in 2012 posited the idea that, in the same way women must be in want of a child, men must be in possession of a good job.

Yes according to this study deprivation and poverty have some impact on rates of suicide but around 90% of people who kill themselves have been suffering from a psychiatric disorder at the time of their deaths.

In some ways these facts could contradict each other – is it mental illness or poverty that leads to despair? But isn't it possible, instead, to see them as linked: that those living in poverty, in deprived areas, are less likely to have received the mental-health help they need before taking their own lives?

Suicide, almost impossible to comprehend by those without mental illness, then becomes a blame game, as we clutch at straws to explain why someone could have ended their own lives. If that person seems to have everything that money and beauty can bestow, then the easiest thing, especially for journalists chasing deadlines and with huge amounts of space to fill, appears to be to fall back on stereotype.

In L'Wren Scott's death financial worries might have been at the heart of the problem. None of us can really know the impact of corporate losses of around $6Million on a fashion designer with multiple homes and rumors of a lucrative new deal. Instead, reports point out how proud she was of having her own business, especially when Scott could so easily have gone with the label of "Mick Jagger's girlfriend".

Perhaps the quicker we give up this simplistic gender-based understanding of happiness – women need children and a husband while men need to work – the better it will be for us all.


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