Today, CNN is paying tribute to Anthony Bourdain with a special episode of the late chef’s hit Parts Unknown. When news of the death by suicide of Bourdain, the chef, author and television host were revealed, food fansaround the globe, international celebrities and even President Barack Obama, mourned his loss.
It also seemed like many people who didn’t read Bourdain’s books or watch his show were drawn to candlelight vigils for him or those of other celebrities who die by similar means. Those people aren’t particularly fans or truly care about Bourdain. But their mood is lifted, by the camaraderie and support they find in this collective expression of grief.
A tweet from Maggie Haberman brought us here.
“Teen suicide is now at a 40-year high for young women Alexandra’s age. It is now the second leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds of both sexes.”
Parents blindsided by daughter’s tragic suicide hope her story helps save others
The home video will look so familiar to so many parents: a sweet little girl singing and dancing her way to her teen years, recognized for achievements outside the home and thoroughly cherished inside it.
But the full story of Alexandra Valoras’ life is more terrifying than familiar. Just weeks after a family ski vacation, the 17-year-old high school junior, straight-A student, class officer and robotics whiz made her bed, tidied her room and walked to a highway overpass in Grafton, Massachusetts. She jumped off the edge.
“I leaned over the embankment and looked down, and I saw her,” said Dean Valoras, her father. “I was just hoping for warmth. Do you know what I mean? But there was no warmth, there was none. And all the cars kept driving by. My daughter’s on the side of the road, nobody saw this. And she’s cold.”
On the overpass, Dean and his wife Alysia found two journals their daughter left behind.
When it comes to mental health, a DIY approach might not be the best option
I’ve been leading support groups for a while now, and one of the more interesting themes I’ve noticed is a DIY (“do-it-yourself”) attitude toward our mental health work. Overall, this is healthy and true. We are each responsible for our own emotional experience, and activities such as journaling, meditation, and mindfulness are typically solitary experiences.
In truth, these more solitary activities are foundations for the bigger work that comes down the road for us. As we start to heal our little wounds, we gain confidence in the process and the capacity to approach some of our deeper hurts. (I like to use the onion analogy: We start by handling all the surface layers, and as we make our way through each layer, we get closer and closer to the central issues of our lives.)
Eventually, we start to see outward evidence of our healing. Maybe we begin to engage with our friends more frequently, or perhaps we start looking for a new job. Inevitably, someone who knows us is encouraged by the progress we are making and offers a helping hand. “Hey, I know someone who is hiring; want me to make a recommendation?”
For the emotionally healthy, the default response here would probably be, “yes, please.”
But those of us in a storm might kindly refuse.
I’ve crossed paths with this specific scenario multiple times, both in my work and my personal life. Those who refuse the help will typically explain the decision with something like, “I want to know I did it on my own.”
I think this is, at least partially, a cultural response: Here in the United States, we worship at the altars of Ayn Rand and the proverbial bootstraps. We adore the self-made success story, holding them up as examples of what a little hard work and determination can achieve.
We rely on societal structures to help protect us, guide us, and meet our fundamental needs.
But no one succeeds in a vacuum. We are all inter-reliant upon each other. To deny this core truth is to deny our essential humanity.
Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds paused mid-song during a concert at New York City’s Madison Square Garden to share an important message about mental health.
“We have a stigmatization in our society today that is hurting our youth, even killing our youth,” the 30-year-old singer said on Tuesday to more than 20,000 fans. “We cannot hide the fact that we all need help. It is not a broken thing to be depressed.”
Reynolds paused the concert at an appropriate time, as he was singing the band’s 2012 hit “Demons” — a song that talks about having a dark side and repeats the phrases, “Don’t get too close / It’s dark inside / It’s where my demons hide.”
During his speech, the frontman emphasized that there’s no shame in having a mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression, and asking for help.
“I have a therapist. It does not make me broken. It does not make me weak,” he told his fans. “There are many people out there tonight who are holding it into themselves, not talking to their friends, their parents. If available to you, a therapist — don’t hold it in, talk to somebody. You are not broken.”
From the New York Times.
By Judith S. Beck
In C.B.T., clear steps are intended to help build hope, solve problems and make a plan to avoid relapses.
After a week of devastating news about suicide, there has been much discussion of the need for people who may be thinking of ending their lives to reach out for help. But some people who are suffering may be skeptical that therapy could make a difference.
Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of cognitive behavior therapy, or C.B.T., in treating suicidal individuals and decreasing subsequent attempts. A 2016 review of 15 randomized controlled trialsfound that C.B.T. “is a useful strategy in the prevention of suicidal cognitions and suicidal behaviors.”
Throughout my career I have used this method to treat patients with many different types of problems and diagnoses, including suicidal behavior — which may occur along with problems like depression, addictions, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Medications can be very effective in treating certain diagnoses, but those medications may take some time to take effect. Therefore the suicidality must be addressed before the medications will be helpful. Sometimes individuals will need to be hospitalized in order to keep them safe until C.B.T. or medications can help. But inpatient treatment is not necessary for everyone who has suicidal thoughts.
Stephanie Chandler is a writer and speaker who lives near Sacramento.
The tragic suicides of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade can be a trigger for many who live with depression as well as those who’ve lost a loved one this way. It’s a reminder that depression doesn’t care about fame or fortune, about family or status.
For many people, it can seem that suicide is a matter of choice — sometimes considered a “selfish” one. I, too, once held that view — until I lost my husband to depression in 2013 and set out to better understand what happened. Now I know just how wrong that thinking is.
My husband was the least selfish person I’ve ever known. He would have never wanted to inflict such pain on his family, especially on our then 7-year-old son, whom he adored. My husband also wasn’t under the influence of any substances. He worked for the same company for more than 20 years and was a steady force in so many ways — except that he battled depression daily.
The only logical explanation for him dying by suicide is that his brain got stuck in what is known as the “suicide trance” and that he thought we would be better off without him. It seems to me it was more of a selfless act than a selfish one.
I didn’t know either Bourdain or Spade personally, but I can promise that they, too, didn’t want to leave their young children behind. In the depths of illness and the suicide trance, they both likely thought the same thing that my husband did.
Think about it. What parent wants to leave their child? Or to miss seeing their child grow up?
Depression is an illness that lies to those who have it. When they reach the point of suicide, they feel worthless and hopeless. They experience a level of pain the rest of us cannot begin to fathom.
You may view it as a choice, but most who die this way viewed it as the only way to stop the intense pain, which has been compared to feeling like surgery without anesthesia. If you had to endure an open-heart operation without anesthesia, you’d probably want to die in the process (and you might actually die from suffering the pain alone). Those of us who have been fortunate enough never to suffer from the darkest depths of depression and suicidal ideation can’t begin to relate to what this experience is like.
We need to stop using the phrase “committed suicide.” Spade and Bourdain died by suicide and from depression. So did Robin Williams and Avicii and my husband. Suicide is also rarely a sudden decision. It’s most commonly the result of persistent voices that its victims have struggled with for years.
The Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that 123 people die by suicide every day, and those numbers have been increasing in recent years. Please don’t judge Bourdain, Spade or anyone else who dies by suicide or lives with depression. And please don’t focus on how it happened or why they died this way. None of this does anything to help the mental-health crisis in the United States.
Instead, reach out to the people in your life who could use some extra support. Spread a little extra love in the world. You never know whose life you might impact with a simple compliment or a moment of kindness. If you encounter a grumpy clerk at the grocery store, do your part to make her day a bit brighter. It just might improve your day, too.
If you’re reading this and are battling depression, please don’t give up. Don’t listen to the lies that depression spews. You are loved. You are needed in this world. Help is available, including at the suicide hotline (800-273-8255).
I promise that the people who love you will not be better off without you.
I have to admit – Anthony Bourdain’s suicide has hit me very hard. I don’t know him. I have only watched him for a couple of years. To be fair? I had seen promos before and thought I would hate his show. I ended up watching one. And then another. And fell in love with his way – finally fully appreciating it.
Anthony Bourdain was real. Flawed. Not shy to admit his flaws. An extreme talent. And again – very real.
As is his suicide.
In the immediate aftermath, we have very genuine shock. Commemorations. Testimonies. Genuine upset. And we have the requisite, “Call if you need help – National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
YES – this is good. YES – we need this to be there.
But I keep feeling very hollow with these posts. I keep feeling that everyone is missing something. I have called the hotline. They have helped. But honestly? For me, for many others, I fear, this hotline and simply “reaching out” is just not enough.
Most of my family and friends know of my few years of trouble now. Some know of my first real attempt – that really should have worked. – but didn’t.
Reaching out? Talking to someone? Many of us do this all the time. And sadly, it doesn’t help.
There are reasons people are in such pain that they come to, what is to them, to us, a very rationale decision. It is very often the very little things that help the most. Some very simple stories in a previous post, prompted by Ana Marie Cox, point to many of these stories with a Twitter hashtag.
My short term conclusions?
Be nice. Notice. Care. These, on a personal level.
Don’t take advantage. Don’t attack. Don’t penalize at extremes. On a corporate level.
If we just cared a little more. If we focused on helping people. Bringing others up. Simply caring, and showing a modicum of respect and understanding. It would save lives.
Do we care? Does society care? Or is posting a toll-free number enough, and hey – wish ’em luck.
Call this number if you are in crisis: 1-800-273-8255.
But those of you who are not in crisis? Please, take the time to notice. To care. To check up. To help out. To advocate.
I never thought I would be in this position. I never quite understood either.
Today, I do. And today? I hope you can spend a few minutes and try to understand too. The effort you put in today may save a life. It may save a loved one. It may even save YOU.
With the death of Anthony Bourdain today and the posting of so many, “If you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255” I have felt a frustration that is difficult to reconcile.
YES – this is a hugely important thing. That number needs to be there. In front of people. And available. And YES, it is a good and important service.
But there is so much more we can do, on an individual basis.
Read about some of the tiniest things, the bigger things and the things we may not even know had an impact. THIS is where the real power is.
Courtesy of Shoppers Drug Mart and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
The site includes an interactive tool that Canadian women can use to learn more about their mental health. It is free – click here to see for yourself.