On Tuesday, the world lost iconic designer Kate Spade. Today, the world mourns culinary legend Anthony Bourdain.
The two prominent celebrities both committed suicide this week by hanging, prompting a nationwide response that is somewhat sickening in its performativity.
Mental health awareness and access to affordable mental healthcare options are both in short supply in the United States, where, according to the Center for Disease Control, suicide rates have increased by more than 25% since 1999.
Don’t get me wrong — I had enormous respect for Spade as a female designer, and Bourdain was one of my personal heroes; I mourn their loss just as much as the next person, especially Bourdain’s.
But, as someone who has personally struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for the greater part of my life, I’m disturbed by the way our country has received and reacted to these deaths.
So much of what I’m seeing, both on social media as well as in the mainstream news, is focused on raising awareness about the national suicide hotline rather than focusing on the tremendous cuts to our healthcare system that put us in this position in the first place.
Anthony Bourdain was a recovering drug addict. He battled depression and loneliness, feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth. He was open about it, transparent even.
His suffering wasn’t a secret.
Kate Spade, on the other hand, was more surprising, as she wasn’t nearly as public about her struggles as Bourdain.
In both cases, though, all anyone seems to be able to say is that it’s shocking for no other reason than everyone else in the world wanted to be them, to be Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade.
For that to be people’s reaction — confusion because their lives were so perfect from the outside — just shows how skewed our perceptions of mental heath are as a society.
Depression, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness…no one is immune to these experiences. They can affect anyone, no matter their social status, their wealth, their profession, or their relationship status.
No one is immune, and we as a culture and as a society need to be understanding, accepting, and proactive in our approach as we confront the way that we depict and portray mental health issues.
As I said before, Bourdain’s suffering wasn’t a secret. And there are thousands if not millions of Americans living with depression today who don’t go out of their way to hide it, either.
And yet, when Bourdain took his life, everyone reacted with shock and surprise.
Leading me to ask the question, why didn’t you care sooner?
Why didn’t you act sooner?
If your friend keeps cancelling on your plans at the last minute, instead of getting frustrated and cutting off communication entirely, maybe check in on them in-person, instead. Bring them their favorite snack. Sit there with them and watch Netflix all day.
Be there for that person.
We need to be more aware of the subtle shifts and changes in behavior that indicate a person’s struggle with mental illness or depression, and more importantly, as we recognize those indicators, we need to be responsive.
Every single death by suicide is preventable — all it takes is awareness, compassion, and intervention.
Anthony Bourdain was more than a chef or a TV celebrity.
Kate Spade was more than a fashion icon and celebrity designer.
These were human beings with families, friends, histories, and futures that have all been left behind for no other reason than the fact that no one intervened in time.
Rest in Peace, Kate and Tony — you will be missed.
“I should’ve died in my 20s. I became successful in my 40s. I became a dad in my 50s. I feel like I’ve stolen a car — a really nice car — and I keep looking in the rearview mirror for flashing lights.” — Anthony Bourdain
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