Doctor: Suicide prevention: here's how you can help

For the millions who watched his shows, Anthony Bourdain was a man living his best life, a magnetic interlocutor and ...

Posted: Jun 9, 2018 2:10 PM
Updated: Jun 9, 2018 2:10 PM

For the millions who watched his shows, Anthony Bourdain was a man living his best life, a magnetic interlocutor and bon vivant on a mission filled with travel, new experiences and people, as well as reunions with old friends. In fact, Bourdain seemed to be doing just about everything mental health providers recommend to stay mentally healthy.

Bourdain was found dead in his hotel room in France on Friday morning. The reported cause of death was suicide.

It shouldn't be a secret, but it remains so for too many of us: No one is living their perfect life. We all struggle. And many of us are affected by a disease that doesn't always show itself, with depression and bipolar disorder being two of the most common mental health diagnoses, both still shrouded in shame.

I personally benefited from counseling services as a depressed medical student. I wasn't alone: Fully 25% of medical students experience depression, but because of the stigma surrounding mental health, I was in the minority by seeking help -- 85% of those who need help don't get it. And these are the people we're training to take care of the rest of us. Think about that.

Bourdain's death comes directly after the suicide of Kate Spade, another beloved celebrity and businesswoman, and following news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that American suicides generally have spiked by 25% since 1999. We all know there's something deeply wrong here, and that we have to do better. Mental health is the foundation of life, and we've got to do everything we can to preserve it.

We don't know the private details of Bourdain's life and the issues that may have contributed to this event. He wrote about drug use and depression in his earlier years, but by his own description, and all evidence, was physically fit, high energy and enjoying his job presenting "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" for CNN.

We need to channel our dismay about Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade into useful advocacy, philanthropy and political action. America's suicide rate was unacceptable in 1999, and it's a monumental tragedy now. There are important organizations working to solve this problem, staffed by smart and dedicated people, and vital research is taking place. Such organizations and such research need our support. Here are a few:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: With 85 local chapters, including one in every state, this $22 million organization backs research vetted by an all-star scientific council, provides conferences for survivors and families, and puts on the Out of Darkness Walks, which improve awareness and raise money to support this mission.

The Columbia Lighthouse Project: An academic center with support from AFSP, among others, this group proliferates an evidence-based series of questions anyone can learn how to ask and use, which helps gauge suicide risk. The Project trains people how to use the rating scale and what do if the risk is high.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. Like many people in health care, I've spent time volunteering for such a lifeline. The experience can be invaluable, and these services do work. It is backed by the Mental Health Association of New York City, with support from a federal grant, and many other organizations are involved in keeping this national 24/7 lifeline running.

The Trevor Project: This $6 million organization exists to support LGBT youth in crisis, operates a safe social network, supports research into decreasing the burden of suicide and depression in this population and advocates to help the nation continue to become more tolerant of its diversity.

The JED Foundation: This $5.5 million organization focuses on teens and young adults, helping prevent substance abuse and suicide, targeting the age group when most major mental health problems are diagnosed. It works with high schools and colleges to train educators and counselors on suicide prevention, understanding that suicide and substance abuse prevention is an institution-wide responsibility, and the entire structure of the campus community must support mental health and well-being.

Issues of access to mental health services don't appear to have played a role in the deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, but they do for thousands of others.

The disregard of our health insurers, federal and private, for adequate mental health care coverage helps foster an atmosphere everyone suffers from, whether wealthy and famous or just getting by, that mental health services are a luxury rather than an essential service everyone may need at stages of our lives -- or continuously, like insulin.

As a practicing physician, I serve as a board member for Mental Health America of Georgia, my state's chapter of a national organization advocating for the services everyone needs ready access to. This weekend I'll be helping fundraise for MHA Georgia so we can continue providing mental health education to the state's children and mental health crisis training for first responders.

Please search out what you can do in your community -- or support any of the organizations above, so we can save each other, and bend back these terrible statistics.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115088

Reported Deaths: 3255
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
Lafayette250443
Lauderdale2478135
Lamar225538
Oktibbeha202454
Bolivar201677
Neshoba1849111
Lowndes179962
Panola170040
Leflore167187
Sunflower162349
Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
Adams108544
Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
Covington97527
Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23129377
Mobile16849315
Tuscaloosa10296140
Montgomery10197197
Madison928096
Shelby733863
Baldwin663769
Lee653465
Calhoun456761
Marshall438150
Etowah426551
Houston414834
Morgan412035
DeKalb338829
Elmore320053
St. Clair292542
Limestone284230
Walker277292
Talladega265335
Cullman244024
Lauderdale226242
Jackson214915
Franklin205231
Autauga204831
Colbert200532
Russell19443
Blount192525
Chilton186932
Dallas186527
Coffee176311
Dale175151
Covington174029
Escambia172530
Chambers135044
Clarke134317
Pike133513
Tallapoosa131787
Marion107629
Barbour10319
Marengo100822
Butler100740
Winston92213
Geneva9007
Lawrence85032
Pickens84718
Bibb82814
Randolph82316
Hale76730
Washington74412
Clay74112
Cherokee73314
Lowndes70928
Henry7086
Bullock64817
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60630
Perry5896
Fayette57413
Wilcox56712
Conecuh56113
Cleburne5568
Macon53420
Lamar4905
Sumter47221
Choctaw39012
Greene34216
Coosa2033
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