Barack Obama, Questlove and more mourn Anthony Bourdain as mental health concerns, conversations mount

Ralph Bristout

 // Jun 8, 2018

CNN // Instagram

Mental health is wealth. Unfortunately though, that message only tends to become clearer when a tragic death occurs. This week, the world lost the lives of fashion designer Kate Spade and, as announced earlier today (June 8), Anthony Bourdain, both to apparent suicide. The renegade chef, who brought the world into our living rooms with his CNN series Parts Unknown and boundless curiosity, was found unresponsive while in Paris where he was working on an upcoming episode of the hit show. But with each tragic passing comes a heightened urgency on mental health.

It's a topic that has remained taboo for far too long and, considering the amount of lives lost on a daily basis, mental health is as important as any other form of health awareness—maybe even more. In April, the music world attempted to grapple with the suicide of acclaimed Swedish DJ Avicii, born Tim Berling, and it was almost a year ago that Linkin Park's Chester Bennington took his own life. Earlier this year, Bow Wow discussed his bouts with suicidal thoughts, as did singer Lil Mo.

"It's never been about people. One of my biggest battles and one of my biggest enemies has always been myself," she unveiled to REVOLT. The same sentiments were shared by Bryson Tiller, who took to Twitter last month to reveal that he suffered from depression during the making of his last album, eerily titled True to Self.

According to stats, in a report by CBS News, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and is also just one of three leading causes that are on the rise. "Unfortunately, our data show that the problem is getting worse," CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, M.D., said in the reported press briefing.

While prevention efforts are out there and aimed at identifying and providing treatment for people with mental disorders, it's also important for us to communicate. Look after your friends and loved ones to make sure they're okay; try to be a light for them as an outlet for their issues; move through your day with the awareness that people all have issues we're dealing with.

The death of Bourdain ushered in an echoing of those same sentiments on social media, as many from celebrities shared their grief and reiterated the focus of self.

Just saw the news this morning about Anthony Bourdain’s passing. I have so many thoughts about him—memories, emotions, and unanswered questions—that right now it’s sort of a jumble. I feel so thankful for him to introducing me to a world I never knew, the world of food and especially food around the world. It was through Anthony that I learned about who the sushi master Jiro Ono was and that recommendation (seeing the Jiro doc & making a pilgrimage to Tokyo by any means necessary) singlehandedly changed the course of my professional and creative life. Anthony also believed, and talked often, about how all forms of creativity were connected: how chefs and drummers and comedians and actors and directors and painters all drew on the same well of thoughts and emotions. That feeling stuck with me. Watching him take trips to faraway lands to get a taste of heaven (and, just as often, to show how life on earth can be hell for people under the thumb of cruel governments or oppressive poverty) was the equivalent of my many trips to obscure record shops continents away. Lastly I’ll miss our endless banter about the merits (or lack therof) of Yacht Rock. Anthony came on Fallon often, and every time, he liked to warn me that his walk-on music better have “some umph to it.” He wanted power and attitude. I’d agree with him, and then I’d play another Billy Joel song, which infuriated him. A few years back, to thank him for writing the foreword to my book, I started the ultimate troll project, though I never got to give it to him. We had an “argument” over Herb Alpert’s “Route 101”: I made the case that the song’s good-feeling/good-time vibe couldn’t be denied, and he made the case that he denied it, and the more heated the argument got the more we laughed. I told him imma make him the mother of smooth-pop playlists and then he would see the light. I’m finishing that playlist, and when I do, I’ll name it after him, just so I can imagine that laugh of his.

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Dumbfounded. You never know who’s in pain. RIP.

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For immediate help if you are in a crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential.

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