Anthony Bourdain Lived and Died in Hell, and I'm Sick and Tired of The Mental Health Conversation

Originally Published on Medium - June 11, 2018

Disclaimer: I believe I am far too anxious to ever be suicidal, so if you’re a concerned friend, don’t worry about that.
Disclaimer: You may disagree with my opinion, and you may get triggered if you struggle with mental health or someone you know has or does.

Anthony Bourdain is dead. I didn’t know him, nor did I even follow him very closely, but for some reason, this death impacted me. Maybe it was just one too many.

Anthony Bourdain was murdered. You won’t hear it described that way, but that is the best way to describe it. A human took another human’s life, and that is murder.

I am sick and tired of the tone around mental health.

I am sick and tired of celebrity after celebrity taking their own life, and everyone just accepting it as matter of fact. I am sick and tired of the casual tone of conversation when we hear someone we once new took their own life. If these celebrities had been murdered, it would be a huge deal. If someone you once knew was murdered, it would shock your system.

And that is the way it should be about suicide. Anthony Bourdain is not in a better place. Anthony Bourdain is not at peace. He is dead. Even if you follow religious doctrine, many hold suicide as a terrible sin.

What Dreams May Come, a film starring another murder victim, covers the topic far better than anything else I have seen or read. Those who commit suicide have the hardest time finding peace. They did not live in peace, why would they reach it in death. Depressed and suicidal people live in a hell in their own mind, why you think that changes once they are gone is narrative only.

Because it makes us feel better. To say that they are now at peace, it doesn’t do anything for them, only for us. You feel better about not helping your friend, you feel better about a celebrity that was lost. But it doesn’t help them.

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What Dreams May Come also does a great job at capturing something else. You are to blame. Suicide is preventable. It is a human initiated and executed act, and humans can prevent it. No one can be in my head with me, and I know that. When I am completely lost and alone, no one can hop inside and keep me company, but they can sure as hell help.

Annie feels alone because her husband was not there for her. You cannot join people in their heads, but you can sit and exist with them at their level. When they need it, for however long they need it.

This won’t be easy to read, and I am sorry if you lost someone to suicide, but the bottom line is, every single one of us has a blame in every single suicide. Brains and thought processes are largely shaped by society and culture, and our culture is sick.

Celebrities get the worst of it. Where are the charges to be laid against the people who profit off of their misery. Who follow them around and harass them to no end. What about the people who eat up the misery ravenously, nothing is too much to laugh at and enjoy, until they are gone.

But the rest of us face it too. The unrealistic stress society puts on people to succeed. The insane beauty standards women face. The fact that men are still trained one way by media at large, only to be told they are horrible by other sectors of it. The culture that thinks I need to self-censor my every thought because it might accidentally offend someone down the road. One of my worst mental months was when I actually tried to live by the insane politically correct standards I interpret online.

The fact is, you can help your friends. You can help society. I do not buy that there was “no way we could have known.” I am sorry, I call bullshit. When was the last time you just sat with that friend and chatted. The last time you reached out to someone just to see how they were doing, with no agenda of your own. Anthony Bourdain was apparently open about his struggles, and yet no one knew what was going on that night. If you maintain a compassionate, open relationship with someone, that is the starting point.

I still struggle to ask for help. I know I have people that would answer the call if I put it out to them, but it is getting the strength to do that that is the toughest. But you wouldn’t need that if it was a physical illness. My grandmother has cancer, and she is a proud woman who will not ask for help, but we know she needs it. We know to check in with her daily, and visit her often.

Maybe that is a lot of work. Maybe Anthony Bourdain didn’t have someone who was willing to call him every day to make sure he was doing alright. But just because no one was doing the work, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have been able to.

I think society has a lot of things it needs to deal with as to what is causing this epidemic. Maybe people need to be more compassionate, more empathetic generally. Maybe we need to stop throwing nothing but bad news at people, and expecting them to inherently know the world is actually better than that. Maybe maybe maybe, I don’t think there is any one answer.

But what I do know, is we need to treat suicide like the horrible, unjustifiable, selfish act it is. Because if any single person saw coverage of Anthony Bourdain finally being “at peace” and thought, that sounds nice, and took their own life to join the peace, that is another tragedy. So no, he is not at peace. Anthony Bourdain lived and died in hell, and suicide is horrific. I am sorry that doesn’t help you feel better that your friend died, but it is the truth.

More and more people struggle with mental health every day, and we need to address the underlying causes to truly fix it. But in the meantime, yes, you can have an idea. Yes, you can help. Reach out to your friends when you think of them. If you know someone who struggles, reach out more. It’s a lot of work, and maybe you don’t think it’s worth it. But if you could prevent a murder, would you? This is the same.