Sunday, 10 June 2018

Anthony Bourdain, David Leavitt, and depression

As you've probably heard by now, much loved television chef/traveller Anthony Bourdain passed away. Sadly, he took his own life. Something that I now refer to as 'dying from Depression.' I first heard this term in the aftermath of the death of Robin Williams.

The death of Anthony Bourdain has hit many people hard. I've heard several people say he had 'the best life.' My good friend @godless_mom is a big fan of Anthony and was devastated by the news. You can read her post about it here.
There has been an outpouring of grief, as is expected when a celebrity dies. Had he been in his 80s and died of a heart attack, I'm sure the sadness would still exist, but it would different. The thing here is Anthony was a man 'on top of his game' as it were. He was successful, he was liked, and he was about to film another episode of his much loved television program.

It's a shock when this kind of news breaks.It's sad news, but not angry news. I've seen some anger directed at Anthony from a man I'd never previously heard of, called David Leavitt.

Upon the news of Bourdain's death, Leavitt posted this:
There's so much wrong with this post. But first, I want to share what Anthony was responding too. It was David Leavitt tweeting the below after news of the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester:

I'm sure most of you will concur with Anthony's opinion of Leavitt upon learning this. Teenagers had just died. Families had just been devastated and here was some cretin making a joke about it. Simply no class.
But back to Leavitt's tweet about Anthony.First, and to me, the most obvious issue, Leavitt is tweeting to a man who has died. Is he expecting a response from Bourdain? I honestly couldn't tell you.
he next part is the truly serious part. "Selfishly taking your own life and hurting your family and friends..." Leavitt then goes on to repeat the insult Anthony had used on Leavitt.
Here's the thing...suicide is carried out, more often than not, by people suffering major depression. Anthony Bourdain had spoken about his personal battle with it. It is clear, as it was with Robin Williams, that Anthony Bourdain died from depression. He died from a medical condition. Would David Leavitt had called Anthony 'Selfish' and a 'Steaming, gaping asshole' had Anthony died from a heart attack, from complications following surgery, or from cancer? I very much doubt it. Just one as doesn't choose to have cancer, one does not choose to have depression.
I'm sure here David would say something along the lines of 'Having depression isn't a choice, but killing yourself because of it is..." And he'd be correct. But what he'd fail to consider is this: Depression is mental ILLNESS, not mental okay-ness. Depression causes your mind to act abnormally. You convince yourself you're a failure, that everything is your fault, that life is not worth living, and the big one, that people would be better off without you. Even loved ones.
What this ignoramus, David Levitt, fails to understand is that when suicide is the result of depression, it's desperation. It's a person who is at the end of their ability to handle what's happening in their head. It's what they see is the only way to end their suffering, and, in turn, the suffering they imagine they're causing those around them.
Depression requires treatment, not condemnation. Sufferers need understanding and help, not abuse and name calling.
I know, because I'm in 'the club' and it's shit. I've briefly had what might be described as suicidal thoughts. It was fleeting, and I never put serious consideration into it, but thankfully that was 20 years ago and I sought and received help. I still suffer depression, but thoughts of suicide are banished to history. When I most recently sought help, I tweeted the following:
I would guess that David Leavitt is of the school of thought that if you're depressed, you should just get happy. Just smile, and get over it. I too thought like that once. When I was a kid. It was rooted in a complete lack of understanding of what depression is, what causes it, and how to address it. Sadly, the things we know work, don't always work.
The other issue is that Leavitt is forcing his opinion and his ideals onto those who are battling something he clearly doesn't understand, I liked the way my twitter friend @StaunchA responded to this aspect of what Leavitt said...

It's an interesting take on it and I'm not sure one I'd have thought of without the input from StaunchA. Not that I'd advocate for suicide, obviously, but I'm also a supporter of euthanasia for people suffering a terminal illness. There's something that doesn't sit will with me about demanding that people must live in suffering and distress, as long as they're living. I'd never thought of extending this to depression. I'd always want people to seek help and persist with trying to get better, but I know enough about it to know it's not 'selfish.'
In the end, it doesn't matter to Anthony Bourdain how insensitive, cruel, and ignorant Leavitt was to him. Anthony is no longer with us. But it matters to people who are battling 'The Black Dog'. The last thing we need to be doing to people with depression, whether or not they're having suicidal thoughts, is belittling them and calling them names, and making them feel even worse about themselves. There's enough misery in the world without adding to it like this.
On this note, I'd like to highlight a tweet from another twitter friend, @girlnamedBoston
Remember, if YOU choose to be kind to people, the world will be a better place for it, and as Boston says, you may save their life.
If you or someone you know is suffering depression and/or having suicidal thoughts, help is available. There are many resources online. The Wikipedia list of international suicide crisis help lines can be found here.


  1. Just about the best post I've seen about Anthony Bourdain's death. Thank you.

    I've never come across the term "dying from depression" before. It's excellent, and I will always use it in future.

    1. Thank you for reading. I'm pleased you liked it.