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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: 37542

Reported Deaths: 1272
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds304154
DeSoto200920
Madison150839
Jones123149
Harrison118316
Rankin113719
Neshoba104577
Forrest104343
Lauderdale97281
Scott83115
Jackson80419
Washington75313
Copiah67516
Leake63520
Lee63022
Grenada6259
Oktibbeha62328
Warren60021
Holmes59841
Lamar5847
Wayne56819
Yazoo5667
Lowndes54917
Leflore53956
Lincoln53835
Pike51120
Lafayette5094
Sunflower5058
Panola4616
Monroe46036
Simpson4533
Covington4505
Bolivar41618
Tate39513
Attala38624
Newton37710
Adams36720
Pontotoc3636
Marion34912
Claiborne31511
Pearl River30832
Chickasaw30219
Winston30211
Marshall2973
Jasper2826
Noxubee2799
Walthall2748
Clay26211
Smith25612
Union25612
Coahoma2356
Clarke22825
Lawrence2162
Yalobusha2089
Tallahatchie1974
Montgomery1863
Kemper18414
Carroll18311
Humphreys17410
Calhoun1705
Hancock15213
Itawamba1478
Tippah14711
Jefferson1373
Webster13511
Prentiss1274
Tunica1263
George1253
Jefferson Davis1254
Greene11610
Alcorn1112
Amite1113
Tishomingo1091
Quitman1011
Wilkinson1019
Perry914
Stone772
Choctaw764
Franklin572
Sharkey480
Benton470
Issaquena111
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 56441

Reported Deaths: 1136
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson7012170
Mobile5061140
Montgomery4599112
Tuscaloosa274353
Madison25359
Marshall205012
Shelby176425
Lee164737
Morgan13975
Baldwin134111
Walker111332
Elmore107622
Etowah106914
Dallas10189
DeKalb10017
Franklin95016
Unassigned77728
Autauga71515
Russell7130
Chambers68530
Cullman6686
Limestone6653
Butler65529
Houston6417
Tallapoosa63069
Lauderdale6006
St. Clair5983
Calhoun5545
Colbert5286
Escambia5128
Lowndes49222
Pike4805
Jackson4422
Coffee4364
Covington43512
Talladega4177
Dale4061
Barbour4022
Bullock37810
Hale36323
Marengo36111
Chilton3452
Blount3311
Clarke3236
Wilcox3158
Marion30914
Winston3095
Sumter29713
Pickens2786
Randolph2759
Monroe2683
Perry2552
Conecuh2388
Bibb2271
Macon2229
Choctaw22012
Greene2009
Henry1573
Washington1529
Lawrence1460
Crenshaw1343
Cherokee1317
Geneva1010
Fayette901
Clay892
Lamar891
Coosa671
Cleburne481
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