Anthony Bourdain Destigmatized Addiction and Mental Health

Anthony Bourdain's suicide was tragic, to say the least. He left a void in the hearts of many of his viewers, fans, colleagues, and loved ones. The last time I experienced this type of outpouring was after the tragic death of yet another icon, Prince.

Like many icons that came to pass, Bourdain will be remembered for the lives that he's touched and impacted through his celebration of life, diversity, and culture. Most people knew Bourdain from "Parts Unknown", a widely acclaimed TV show broadcasted on CNN that takes viewers on a trip around the world from the lens of a global citizen.

It's fait to say that most people wanted to be Bourdain, myself included. He exuded a distinct aura of metrosexual masculinity mixed with benevolence and humility. His tattoos and rugged yet sophisticated look portrayed his viewpoints on life: it's complicated.

However, unlike most public figures who often neglect to share their personal experiences, Bourdain spoke openly about his past, most notably his addiction to heroine and cocaine. Coming from someone who has personally struggled with substance abuse in the past, I know that takes a lot of courage. Watching Bourdain speak so confidently and openly about his drug abuse gave me hope and strength to continue to share my story to the people around me. I know I am not alone. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 21 million Americans struggled with substance abuse in 2014. Bourdain was aware of the magnitude of the crisis. One of his latest episodes looked closely at western Massachusetts' opioid crisis that has ravaged the small town of Greenfield where over 100 residents are addicted to heroine and opioids.

His work transcended food fetishes and world class travel that so many knew him for. That's a superficial portrayal of a man who was on a mission to create a more empathetic and understanding society. He did that by willingly sharing captivating stories and his past experiences with substance abuse at local AA meetings, during group discussions, and on live TV. Bourdain bridged a void that's been filled with stigma and social ostracization for so long.

This is not to say that he solved one of the most complex social issues, rather, created a stepping stone for others to leverage as a call to action. Bourdain did not die in vain; his message through his immortal storytelling qualities will go on for a long time. It will flow continuously and be passed down to a new wave of social change. One that can empathize with the afflicted and begin treating mental health and addiction for what they are: diseases that need to be prevented and treated. I can already see it, we are getting closer. Thank you Anthony.

#publichealth #crisis #mentalhealth #travel #culture #support


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