And yet again, many mourn the loss of someone famous, that either inspired them, or entertained them. And yet again, it appears it was by their own hands. Over the weekend, it was reported that Anthony Bourdain, most recently known for his television show, “Parts Unknown”, where he travelled the world sampling food and traditions and history, committed suicide, apparently by hanging.
Of course, we are all caught off guard. Recently, Bourdain had been doing the talk-show circuit, to promote his current season of “Parts Unknown,” and it is likely, just as in my case, we all just saw a guy, promoting his show, seemingly having a great life, a girlfriend, a daughter, successful show, and of course travelling wherever he basically wanted to go.
There is no known reason why Bourdain took his own life. And as I stated in the beginning, to the common person or fan, we had no idea that something troubled him so badly, or triggered a decision, he took his own life.
Over the years, there are many other celebrities that I have enjoyed being entertained by, who sadly ended their own lives as well… Michael Hutchins of INXS, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, and one that definitely had an affect on me, Robin Williams.
All of the above mentioned, including Bordain, on the outside, all portrayed a life that seemed to be that of a success that only most of us could dream of. In some instances, we would learn that their passings had nothing to do with their successes, but other feelings that they kept private. As a cancer survivor dealing with very serious side effects, I keep the circle of people who are aware of my health issues, pretty much the only ones who can actually “see” anything wrong with me. I do that because I either believe that the average person cannot handle to know everything that I deal with, or in some instances, preventing unsolicited advice or worse, criticism. For those that opt for suicide, I cannot help but wonder, if they intentionally keep their hurt or torment inside for the same reasons.
I personally have never known anyone who has committed suicide. In my early childhood, I had a young friend whose mother had committed suicide, but as it was explained to me by my mother, it was not something to be talked about with my friend. And so, it never was. I do have friends to this day who do have experience with a loved one who has committed suicide, and with the exception of one, they also do not discuss it, and the one that does talk about it, well… you can tell the sadness that they relive over and over as they talk about what happened, and the events that led up to the suicide.
My first indepth study into suicide occurred during school, with an essay in a particular psychology course. I do not recall what directed me to the topic, but I chose Teenage Suicide. I wrote about rates, successful attempts. Oddly, as is talked about today, or rather, not discussed, unsuccessful attempts, I did not write about. I wrote about possible causes, mostly all related to behaviors. I still have the paper, which I earned an A+, in spite of a few grammatical errors, a perfect paper, or so it seemed. As an adult, I can clearly see now, how much more complicated this issue really is. More disturbing, it does not seem that society is dealing any better with the issue, than in the early 1980’s when I wrote about it.
Suicide is more than just about dealing with depression. Within 24 hours, social media responded with cries against feeling sorry for celebrities who simply were not satisfied with everything they had, decrying the lack of attention to the 22 vets who commit suicide every day, an undeclared number of alienated parents frustrated with a system that is run more by money than the best interests of their children, and another group of suicide victims seemingly pushed aside by the onslaught of school mass shootings, victims of bullying. The reality is this, suicide does not discriminate, just as any disease such as cancer, diabetes, or ALS. But instead of complaining about the “who” of the story, we should be taking the opportunity to not only draw attention to the issue of suicide, but we should take the moment to express in totality, how many people per day, die by their own hand, including vets, alienated parents, victims of bullying. I am not sure what the total number of suicides committed every day would be, but if we are going to try to draw attention to one demographic, when it comes to suicide, we should acknowledge all of the demographics, not just a particular one.
I have no idea what goes on in the mind of someone considering such a fate. I myself have never thought of suicide. I will not pretend to know what someone is thinking when it comes to ending their life. What exactly can we do to help those who are in such pain, that suicide is felt to be the only option? Since most of us are not mind readers, we cannot tell when someone is reaching that point. Behavioral changes are the most obvious warning signs, however, in most cases they are so subtle, we do not recognize them. But what if, we actually paid attention more to our friends and family, not just for behavioral changes, but for events in their life, that could lead to possible behavioral responses. The death of a loved one. A bad grade. A painful break-up. Losing a job. A family tragedy. We all respond immediately to those affected, when they are affected, and then we move on. But all too often, those feeling the loss, do not. And it is then, that changes begin. But unless the sorrow or pain is shared with us, we all too often assume any changes were intentional, especially when they appear for the good. In the case of Bourdain, he had a well known issue with addiction, but for viewers, all we saw was the guy touring location after location, partying with locals, and just having a great time. Even those close to him, are unaware of what could have caused him to kill himself. But I am certain, there was an event, that set him on this path. Changes occurred, ever so subtly, and went unnoticed as a concern.
But as I mentioned, just as many illnesses and diseases, suicide carries a stigma about it. There is a shame that is felt by those who are left behind. There are opinions by those who should have none, such as religious zealots who feel the need to condemn the departed because it was by their own hands.
And WTF!!!! Why are pharmaceutical companies creating drugs that cause harmful side effects, especially the potential for suicide or an increase in suicidal tendencies? Why the Hell would anyone even consider that an option, to make someone feel worse than they already do? As with many other problems we have, that we try to cure with a pill, unless we deal with the problem itself, the problem will never go away regardless of what pill you take.
Like many other problems that we do not investigate for answers, factors, and solutions, I feel that if we actually considered those who survived suicide attempts for solutions and answers, perhaps we might be able to save more from such a sad end. And again, I am relating to a similar position of cancer. We only hear and publicize when people die from cancer. But we hardly ever make a big deal about the successes of cures and survival. Perhaps, if those who were in such pain, might be able to find hope in others who were not successful or changed their mind, they themselves might make a different decision.
In the meantime, sure, someone hurting can call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. But we can also remember those in our life, that have gone through something painful, long after the hurt is gone for us. Because it might just not be gone for them. They may still need our help and support.