Bourdain’s passing had to do with stigma and masculinity
I met up with several friends over the weekend, and each one independently brought up Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. The people I spoke with didn’t understand it because Bourdain seemed to have everything a person could want. “The best job in the world,” as he would call it.
Traveling the planet, making television shows and writing books, fame and fortune. What’s not to love about that life?
The more I thought about it, the more I began to think that we are using the wrong yardstick to measure success. Life is more than the job we have or how much money is in the bank. These are concepts that we all know about, but they are difficult to keep in the front of our minds when we are plowing through the mountain of daily tasks we have to do.
I believe the passing of Anthony Bourdain had more to do with stigma and masculinity than anything else. If you read his books or watched his TV shows, it’s clear that Bourdain came from the generation of men that prized strength above everything else. Showing weakness in any form is among the worst things a man could do.
Actress Rose McGowan confirmed this in a letter she wrote on behalf of Bourdain’s girlfriend Asia Argento.
“Anthony was part of a ‘pull up your bootstraps and march on’ generation. The a ‘strong man doesn’t ask for help’ generation. I know before Anthony died he reached out for help, and yet he did not take the doctor’s advice. And that has led us here, to this tragedy, to this loss, to this world of hurt.”
Psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Friedman wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times. He says, “suicide is a medical problem that is almost always associated with several common and treatable mental illnesses, like depression, anxiety and impulse and substance abuse disorders. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder.”
Over 90 percent have a treatable disorder. That’s an astonishing number.
So what’s preventing people from getting treatment? It’s the false belief that being depressed or anxious is a failure of character when in reality it’s an illness.
It took me a long time to realize that just like every other part of the human body, the brain can be ill. Simple concept, right?
But we as a society don’t want to believe that. We act like that’s not true, but I submit to you that it is.
In the same way you can have the flu or have high blood pressure, you can have a bout of depression or an anxiety attack. It’s not a failure of will, it’s an illness. It’s treatable, not something to be ashamed of.
At this same dinner I was at, some junior high students starting talking about classmates that were gay and transgender. It wasn’t a big deal to them. It’s just the way things are. There was not a huge stigma around sexuality for these young people. I’m optimistic that they will also me more open to the idea of mental health and abandon the narrow views of their fathers.
I hope we as a society are moving in the right direction. It’s not your fault if you’re living in a dark place. There is a way out. You can get some help.
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