The Dark Cloud: Mental Health Awareness, Anthony Bourdain, and Suicide Prevention Hotlines
Anthony’s Bourdain’s shocking death
I don’t like talking about death. This blog‘s tagline is “Live healthy. Celebrate life.” particularly because I want to focus on how being healthy can help you live a happy and full life. I feel this compelling need to talk about mental health awareness this week, however, primarily because of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s sudden demise. Like all his fans, I felt like I lost a friend when news of his shocking death hit the headlines.
The wild success of Bourdain’s travel show, No Reservations, was a testament to the host’s knack to present food in an incredibly personal way. By taking us on a journey into other people’s cultures and kitchen, he took us into other people’s lives and hearts. He made us remember the universal appeal of food. By being unabashedly authentic to his audience, he made us remember the common threads of our humanity.
That’s why it was an incredible shock when news of his suicide broke out. Why would anyone with the life he had want to end it all?
It turns out that clinical depression is a lot more complex than “merely” being sad.
Depression: “the mysterious fog”
Some people call it “the mysterious fog.” Others call it “the dark cloud.” It’s like a veil that persistently threatens to eliminate your zest for life. Dr. Alex Korb in Psychology Today describes it as thus:
“Moods are like fog. They can roll in unexpectedly and obscure the brightness of life, making everything gray and dark and difficult. And you might stumble through it for hours, or days, or months. And then all of a sudden with a gust of wind, or beam of light it dissipates, and the world brightens, and you don’t understand why it didn’t look that way the whole time. But the times you feel good can be somewhat random and short-lived, and that can make the heaviness all the more unbearable when it returns.”
Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly what goes wrong in depression. Unfortunately, depression is not just a matter of having insufficient supplies of the happy chemicals norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. Hence, it’s not solved by simply increasing the available levels of these neurotransmitters. Antidepressants, for instance, do not work for everyone. As per Dr. Korb in his other Psychology Today article on the subject, “We know that a given antidepressant will work great on about a third of people, do an ok job on another third, and not do much for the rest. But before actually giving the medication to the person for three months, it’s hard to say who will respond and who won’t.”
It’s also not just physiological or chemical. This multifaceted issue is also social and economic since – even if medications were given – a simple pill could not address complex influences (such as unemployment and lack of social support) that life has on the brain, and which conspire against the sufferer (Korb, 2015).
Empathizing with depression
Like all humans, I know suffering and pain. It’s part of the human experience. What’s hard to wrap one’s head around, though, is clinical depression. You understand it from an intellectual standpoint, but not from the gut level.
Reading the aforementioned Psychology Today articles made me realize that when you have clinical depression, you can’t just snap out of it. It’s not like you can simply turn on a switch to make everything bright and light again. It really is quite debilitating.
Brené Brown on EmpathyWhat is the best way to ease someone's pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.
Voice: Dr Brené Brown
Animation: Katy Davis (AKA Gobblynne) www.gobblynne.com
Production and Editing: Al Francis-Sears and Abi Stephenson
Watch Dr Brené Brown's full talk 'The Power of Vulnerability' here:
Dr Brené Brown is a research professor and best-selling author of "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead" (Penguin Portfolio, 2013).
She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.
Find out more about the RSA: http://www.thersa.org
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CNN anchor brought to tears honoring Anthony BourdainCNN's Kate Bolduan remembers Anthony Bourdain, the gifted chef, storyteller and writer who was pronounced dead at age 61.
How to get help: Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Michael Phelps on managing depression: "It's OK to not be OK"Swimmer Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian in history. He has gone to five Olympic Games and won consecutively. Phelps joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss his water conservation initiatives, fatherhood, and how he learned to manage depression.
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According to Michelle, a Trainee Counsellor of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapists and a former sufferer of depression, panic disorder, social phobia, and agoraphobia, these are some of the sentiments she felt during the time she was suffering from severe depression:
- “It’s a constant feeling of dread and doom, like there is a black cloud following you round and it will never go away, some days this is so severe that it is difficult to get out of bed or even move. I was regularly frozen to the spot in my darkest moments, like I had ground to a complete halt.
- Anxiety often becomes a partner to Depression, the two conditions go hand in hand. Not only do you feel very down you also feel very anxious with it and that can become an unbearable feeling.
- It’s a complete lack of motivation to do anything at all and everything that you used to enjoy now holds no interest or enjoyment at all. It is also very difficult to actually start anything, almost like you are completely unable.
- Even the smallest task such as taking a shower is genuinely like climbing Mount Everest, It seems impossible to do even the simplest things and this inability to do what you once could causes great anxiety.
- Black thoughts fill your head all day long and also while you are asleep giving you shocking nightmares. These thoughts can be very frightening and are usually what you fear the most. They feel real and it’s impossible to stop thinking them. I can remember feeling an actual sting in my chest every time I had a black thought.”
Depression is when you’re not able to access joy anymore.
Isn’t that a sad thought?? 🙁
Reach out — help is around
All this recent talk brought about by celebrity suicides has borne at least one benefit: more awareness about the need to take care of one’s mental health. Concrete actions are being taken to address the issue. First of all, there’s the very recent signing of the Philippine Mental Health Law, or Republic Act 11036, which is a significant step in the right direction towards giving every Filipino better access to mental health care. Confirmed by its proponents, Senators Risa Hontiveros and Sonny Angara, as well as by Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, the law seeks to “provide mental health services down to the barangay level, and integrate mental health programs in hospitals. It also seeks to improve mental health facilities and to promote mental health education in schools and workplaces.” The law also calls on PhilHealth to cover not just hospitalization but psychiatric consultations and medicines as well.
Second of all, there’s the availability of suicide prevention hotlines for those who need help. The following crisis hotlines offer mental health counseling and are free and anonymous:
632 804 HOPE (4673)
0917 558 HOPE (4673)
Crisis Line Philippines/ In Touch Community Services
632 893 7603
0917 800 1123
0922 893 8944
Should you need help, may you have the courage to seek it.
This post on mental health awareness is dedicated to Anthony Bourdain and to everyone suffering depression in silence.
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I am not affiliated with any of the organizations or individuals I mentioned here. This blog post is not sponsored and is for informational purposes only. Please reach out if you think you need help.
Photo from Sydney Sims.
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