The Conversation Around Mental Illness Was Host by Someone

Op-Ed: Anthony Bourdain’s death has us asking the wrong questions about suicide

As the death of Anthony Bourdain — the chef, author and television personality who battled bipolar disorder — has been confirmed, the conversation around the disease has been hijacked by the usual suspects.

From the liberal, who want to blame everything on a wealthy, white Hollywood elite, to the regressive, who say the same of modern life, there’s a good chance that the conversations around mental illness were hijacked by someone.

But if that wasn’t a deliberate choice, the blame lies with the sufferers.

The problem is that the diagnosis of bipolar disorder is so nebulous. While the disease was once considered a catch-all for a variety of conditions, for a couple of decades it was largely misdiagnosed and its symptoms (including an unstable mood, extreme emotional ups and downs, delusions and the inability to plan) were often ignored.

But the stigma attached to those symptoms is so pervasive in our society that those with a bipolar diagnosis are still stigmatized and blamed for anything that happens to them.

And because we are still so fixated on the disease and its various symptoms, we are in a very, very bad place when it comes to prevention and treatment. Right now we don’t know how to diagnose our own symptoms. And because of that, we’re even less equipped to find a cure.

And while we are often quick to judge others for their mental health, we are far more likely to judge ourselves. That’s why it’s so important that we don’t fall into the trap of self-judgment.

When it comes to suicide, we need to focus on prevention, not cure.

Bourdain didn’t just suffer from bipolar disorder. He suffered from mental illness — anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder — for most of his life.

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