Anthony Bourdain Tragedy: We Must Talk About Suicide

With a booming career and a full and vibrant life, Bourdain had everything to live for. So why did he choose suicide?

By Ed Young

On Friday morning, the world lost the original bad boy of the culinary world when celebrity chef Anthony “Tony” Bourdain was found dead in an apparent suicide. He was 61. Born in New York City and raised in Leona, New Jersey; Bourdain graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in 1978 and would go on to work and run various restaurant kitchens in New York City for the next twenty-five years.

In 1999, an article in the New Yorker brought Bourdain from culinary obscurity and began his rise to worldwide fame. This article would be the precursor to his best-selling book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. For the better part of the next two decades, Bourdain would host a variety of culinary and travel shows, most famously No Reservations and Parts Unknown. According to his employer CNN, Bourdain was in Strasbourg, France to film an episode of Parts Unknown when he was found unresponsive by friend and fellow celebrity chef Eric Ripert.

With a booming career and a full and vibrant life, Bourdain had everything to live for. So why did he choose suicide?

This is a question that people are asking more and more in recent years. Sadly, Bourdain joins a growing list of celebrities whose outward appearance showed a zest for life and an attitude of seizing and living every moment to the fullest. But like many celebrities before him such as Ernest Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe, and more recently Robin Williams; what the world saw on the surface did not reveal the turmoil that these individuals were battling and would eventually lose to.

A study released yesterday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that in the last two decades suicide in America has increased by 20 percent while in some states this statistic has increased by as much as 30 percent. Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in America today. In 2015, 44,193 people died of intentional self-harm suicide.

The statistics, in short, are sobering:

* On average, 105 Americans died by suicide every day.

* There is one death by suicide in the United States every 12 minutes.

* Depression affects 20 to 25% of Americans ages 18 & over in any given year.

* The highest suicide rates in the United States are among Whites, Native Americans, & Alaskan natives.

* Only half of all Americans experiencing an episode of major depression received professional treatment.

* There is one suicide for every estimated 25 suicide attempts.

* There is one suicide for every estimated four suicide attempts in the elderly.

* Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the world (third in America) for those between the ages of 15 and 24.

* Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

* While females experience depression at approximately twice the rate of men, men are four times more likely than females to commit suicide.

* Male deaths represent 79% of all U.S. suicides.

* Suicide rates among the elderly are highest for those who are divorced or widowed.

* Lesbian, gay, and bisexual kids and teenagers are three times more likely than straight kids & teenagers to attempt suicide at some point in their lives.

* There is one death by suicide in the world every 40 seconds.

* An estimated quarter million people each year become suicide survivors.

Sadly, these numbers are not new to professionals in the medical and education fields. Each year medical personnel at hospitals and teachers and staff at schools across the country R train an educated at the risk of suicide and the hot button term “mental health”. In the past few years, mental health has become an umbrella phrase to encompass the motive of almost every violent act whether it be a mass shooting, domestic violence, or a disruption in the workplace.

We see talking heads on the news, political pundits, activist, and candidates for elected office talking about how we need to address the mental health in these situations, but where is the talk of addressing the mental health in suicide?

It’s almost as if the subject were taboo. According to Winter Springs City Commissioner and Seminole County School Board candidate Dr. Cade Resnick, “One of the biggest issues with depression is suicide. The thoughts and mindset of a depressed person lead down this path too easily.”

Whether it’s using a gun, a knife, a rope, a bathtub, or prescription drugs THIS is a mental health issue that impacts every group in America regardless of age, gender, religious affiliation, income level, political affiliation, or sexual orientation.

Where are the activists getting free airtime and the headlines in the newspapers? Where are the fundraisers for suicide prevention? Where is the public and private funding for preventing suicide, providing treatment for people who attempt suicide, and to help the family and friends that are impacted by suicide and suicide attempts daily?

I don’t pretend to have the all the answers and no one person organization no matter how good the intentions are can truly solve this alone. But I am an individual who has been on the front line as a teacher and seen how suicide can ravage young and old people alike. I’m one of the estimated 16 million adults in the United States that has battled depression and won. My fight and the fight that millions of people across the world endure every day in their battle against depression is not easy but is winnable.

Dr. Resnick continues, “Depression is a hidden psychological disorder that causes intense dread for the person. The general population has no idea what is going on inside the mind of the depressed person. The thoughts and mindset of a depressed person lead down the path to suicide too easily. As a society we need to find better assistance for depressed people so that we are able to minimize and eliminate the negative effects of the depressed mind.”

He’s right. Depression and suicide are beasts like none other and it doesn’t just take a village to beat it, it’s going to take each and every one of us to help in the fight against depression and suicide and making sure it doesn’t get worse.

If you or a loved is considering suicide, there is help. In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide can provide you with contact information for crisis centers around the world.


Ed Young holds a Bachelors is Communication from Flagler College and a Masters in Education from Stetson University and has worked as a teacher in public and private schools in Central Florida for the last fourteen years. The study of history and politics, both local and national, is a personal interest of his. He is a longtime Seminole County resident, financial conservative, and advocate for conserving Florida’s natural resources. He currently serves as the Vice Chair for the Seminole County Soil & Water Conservation District where he represents Group 4.