Saturday, June 09, 2018

About Bourdain

Seems that Anthony Bourdain was way more popular than I had realised.   There's a really major outpouring of grief and upset at his death underway.

I didn't mind him, but wasn't his greatest fan.  I thought Kitchen Confidential was a bit over-rated, but it certainly did serve as a (perhaps inadvertent) warning (as was Ratatouille, now that I think of it) to any young adult interested in a career as a chef  that a good proportion of their fellow careerists will be crazy.   (It seems that before his book, there was no clear understanding in the public mind as to just how crazy the profession could be.)   And I do tend to worry about memoirs which talk too cheerfully about the dissolute days of youth spent under the effects of copious amounts of drugs - they can work as an inadvertent advertisement for experimentation, as well as miss the perspective of other people who had to put up with them at that time. 

His TV persona was generally likeable, and he did go to interesting places, even if the food there wasn't always appetizing.   But I still had my reservations (pun unintended):   perhaps he came across as a bit too cheerful and relentlessly convivial at times;  rather like some comedians, that can cause me to wonder whether some of it is a front. 

Still, yeah, it's sad.

Update:   Gee, in reaction to Bourdain's suicide, Zack Beauchamp at Vox has written one of the clearest and best optimistic takes on depression and overcoming it that I have ever read, based on his personal experience.    Maybe it should be prescribed reading for all teenagers....


not trampis said...

suicide is the ultimate selfish act.

Steve said...

You should read the Zack Beauchamp article, Homer. I think we can be pretty confident that most sudden suicides are committed by people who are not thinking straight, due to depression, and they are blind to the reality of their situation (that is, there is every chance that situation will improve, with the right help): hence it's inappropriate to judge their decision by the standards of morality you may apply to a person without the blinding effect of depression.

I think this is a really obvious thing - I am surprised you don't get it.

John said...

suicide is the ultimate selfish act.

Suicide can arise because people have lost themselves, they can no longer find hope in the future. You're breaking one of my heuristics: if you want to understand behavior don't invoke morals because that is too easy, a lazy and useless way to think about such a complex issue. If you think castigating the suicidal is going to help them you don't understand the problem, you may well tip them over the edge. Yes, depression, especially by celebrities, sports people, and the well to do, can arise from narcissism, from not being satisfied with one's lot in life, but the majority of suicides don't fall into those categories.

... Approximately 60 percent of people who commit suicide have consumed alcohol at the time of death....

So let's ban alcohol because it is also very present in crime and violence, especially domestic violence.

CBT is next to useless no matter what Beyond Blue says. The drugs have limited efficacy and can increase suicide risk in the first few weeks. Depression can be a rational response to the hopelessness of a person's situation in life. The therapies may help but most of all the patient needs to at least be able to perceive a possible better tomorrow. Otherwise they will forever be on the drugs and in therapy. Ironically there is evidence to suggest that if a person stays on antidepressants for an extended period they are doomed to forever to be reliant on the drugs. So the drugs are potentially addictive. There is a chicken and egg question there but I tire of the way so many so blindly and uncritically accept the claims of groups like Beyond Blue. Of course they won't admit that the drugs are potentially addictive, or that some antidepressants cause bad lipid changes, high blood sugar, obesity. Even more worryingly a number of antidepressants are drugs that inhibit a vital brain saver: acetylcholine(good reason to eat eggs or lecithin because these contain choline the necessary substrate). The studies on the use of these drugs, even for short periods, are at present pointing to a very large increase in dementia risk.The last two research reports on this issue had one lead doctor stating that he would never take drugs that stop acetylcholine and the latest one warned that we must stop prescribing these drugs. That won't happen. Most people don't even know that antidepressants inhibit acetylcholine, all they think about is serotonin. Many doctors don't know this of emerging research and will just keep prescribing the drugs.

If CBT and antidepressants are so effective why has the prevalence of depression been increasing since the introduction of these treatments? Depression is now the leading cause of disability in the OECD.

Steve said...

You're a depressing person to listen to about depression, John!

Some people - like Beauchamp - credit CBT with getting them through it, (or at least I think that it's the type of therapy he's referring to.)

It must be a hard thing to research though, given it relies on self reporting of mood and affect. At least with schizophrenia, there is a more objective sense in which you can tell someone is not well - if they are reporting hearing voices or some such.

not trampis said...

Depression is all about self contentedness.

you only think of yourself and your position in your worthless life. Family is clearly not thought about nor are fronds who grieve at not knowing why the person took their life.

John said...

Steve it is depressing because the problem is getting worse and biomedical interventions are not a solution. It is about the structure of modern societies. We've gone astray, the neoliberal socioeconomic model places too much emphasis on individualism. Human beings are very social creatures but the modern demands of work are making it impossible to be social. We used to build fences that you could lean on while having a yarn with the next door neighbour, now people are increasingly building high walls that isolate themselves from their neighbours. Social media has revealed a world of hate and diatribe. Catallaxy should be subject to a study which determines how frequently there is a comment critical of someone somewhere over something. That site seems to attract people who simply want to vent.

Perhaps I was too harsh on the medical professions. It is not their job to change society, they have to pick up the pieces of people being destroyed by a culture that is increasingly bad for mental health. The genesis of this problem though may go back to the ideas that we can simply dump children in childcare and that will be sufficient. There is a huge amount of research demonstrating that principal caregiver attachment in the earliest months and years of life is fundamental to mood stability throughout life. So perhaps now we are reaping the wind of treating babies as robots. We need to strategies for children raising that are research based rather than economics based. The place to start there is Bowlby but I suspect most designers of current childcare policies haven't even heard of attachment theory.

BTW, antidepressants work in the most severe forms of depression, probably less than 10% of all prescriptions. The other 90% is placebo.