First Kate Spade and Now Anthony Bourdain – A Mental Illness Reality Check


mental illnessThis week has been marked by the untimely deaths of two of my heroes: Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.  I’ve been experiencing feelings of shock, disbelief, and morose. Bummed that the world has lost two fabulous artists in fashion and food, they each brought something so extraordinary to their crafts.  I was always looking forward to what they were going to do next. Now, I will always wonder what more could have been done to help them overcome their demons.

When I heard about Kate Spade, my female colleagues and I were waiting in a building lobby between appointments. Most of us had owned a Kate Spade bag. I, myself, had owned at least three Kate Spade wallets. Kate Spade made accessories lively, juxtaposing function (i.e. the square tote bag) with bright happy colors like fuchsia, baby blue, and red. I learned to love pink again when I bought her items.

Kate Spade retail stores were lively, marked by gleaming white walls and punches of pink. Even when I didn’t walk out with a purchase, I always left her store a little happier, because the store’s decor was so uplifting. Ironically, the light, bright attitude that her brand exuded was in stark contrast to the designer’s personality. Later in the week, we learned that Kate Spade had been battling depression for several years. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been to maintain “appearances” while battling such a disease.

In contrast, Anthony Bourdain didn’t care about “appearances.” From the very beginning, he just did not give a f**k. I’ve read most of his nonfiction: Kitchen Confidential, Cook’s Tour, Nasty Bits, and own the two cookbooks: Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halle Cookbook and Appetites. My husband and I watched hours of Cook’s Tour and No Reservations on TV. Anthony took the sexiness and celebrity mystique out of cooking and stripped it down to its ugliness. He wrote about food and travel culture before foodies took over with their cameras. Above all else, Anthony Bourdain inspired people to eat, to embrace both the exquisitely plated cuisine of the five-star restaurant and the local food stall on a country road. Unlike Kate Spade, we knew Anthony Bourdain had demons. We read about it in his books.  In as shocked as I was about the news of his death, I wasn’t entirely surprised. In his words, he wanted to show the world, “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” (Kitchen Confidential, 2000).

Thus, we need to talk about mental illness and depression as openly as we talk about cancer, erectile dysfunction, fertility, obesity, etc. When a fellow mommy, a family member, or an acquaintance shares their struggles with us, we need to listen and keep them talking. Mental illness is not just a phase. Every struggle is different. I will always be grateful to the college counselors at San Francisco State for listening to me when my own problems weighed too heavily on my shoulders.  When we dismiss the existence of any illness, especially mental illness, we dismiss those who suffer from it and discourage those sufferers from getting help. It should not take the death of our heroes to begin a dialogue about mental illness.

If you are having suicidal thoughts or know someone that is, know that you are not alone. Tell someone.  Contact the National Suicide Prevention hotline.

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Jeanne is a married, full-time working mom with an MBA in Marketing from Golden Gate University and BA in Communications from San Francisco State University. She is an Associate Director of Sales for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and loves that her career enables her to promote the city she loves. Jeanne and her husband Daniel live in San Francisco with their two daughters, Ilse and Alice. When Jeanne is not working, writing, or volunteering at Ilse's school, she enjoys traveling, spending time with family, and cooking from her collection of cookbooks (70 and growing) while sipping Hudson Bay Bourbon. Follow her adventures on Instagram.


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