Revisiting Bourdain, a victim of depression

By Herbert Vego

THE New York Post (Sept. 20, 2022 issue) reported that a dream had come true for the late American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain – Urban Hawker, a street-food hall on 50th St., New York City.

Singaporean chef K.F. Seetoh said he built it in fulfillment of Bourdain’s dream of building food stalls for at least 100 street-food hawkers.

“Tony would say, ‘darn it, you did it without me,’” Seetoh told the Post.

One recalls that, in his third and last visit to Manila in June 2017, Bourdain spoke at the World Street Food Congress at the Mall of Asia. He waxed enthusiastic about his plan to establish a “New York City food market” which would sell delicacies from different countries, including the Filipino lechon and sisig.

Unfortunately, one year later on June 8, 2018, the 61-year-old Bourdain committed suicide by hanging himself in his hotel room in Strasbourg, France.

It is hard to imagine why a very successful chef and star of TV shows focusing on the exploration of international cuisine would cut his life short.

In an article for The Recovery Village, author Thomas Christiansen revealed that Bourdain had “kept his depression tucked away. Unfortunately, ignoring depression is a risky way to manage it.”

For such people who appeared “fulfilled” the popular explanation is that they had experienced an upsetting or stressful life that triggered depression.

Separated from two wives, Bourdain was in a romantic relationship with Italian actress Asia Argento, some 20 years his junior.

The French police tried to verify reports that he had been addicted to heroin, only to find no trace of narcotics in his remains.

His Filipino fans felt his loss was like that of an old friend.

Famous Filipino chef Margarita Fores asked, “Why, Tony, didn’t you know that we all so loved you?”

With all his money, could Bourdain not have fought depression with the aid of expensive anti-depression drugs?

According to Dr. Paul Anderson, an evolutionary biologist and university professor, antidepressants are just a “quick fix” for shaking the blues. Case studies of people taking these drugs have indicated “doubling their risk for a relapse of major depression.”

Assuming Bourdain had, he still might have failed to shake the blues.

While that is not what the doctors who prescribe Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil say, Anderson’s research indicates that prolonged use tapers off their effectiveness.

Anderson believes that depression actually prepares the body to deal with stress, just like fever that helps the body fight infection.

Depression indicates an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, namely serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which dictate the way an individual thinks, behaves, and feels.

Anti-depression drugs alter the levels of the neurotransmitters, disrupting the body’s natural regulatory process. Consequently, when the patient quits taking the drug, the brain overcorrects and triggers deeper depression.

To test this theory, Dr. Anderson and his team found that, on average, patients who took the drugs and then stopped had a 42% risk of relapse.  Conversely it was only a 25% risk for those who had never “drugged.”  Users are stuck in a cycle where they need to keep taking antidepressants to prevent a return of symptoms.

Not only do the drugs not work; they cause side effects in men, including problems getting an erection, sexual dysfunction, decreased libido, and lack of orgasm.

Nevertheless, a study done by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that antidepressants are being pushed by an $11 billion industry which leads patients to believe that they are the only way out of depression. In fact, about 8.9% of the US population is taking antidepressant drugs.

A “food supplement” known as St. John’s Wort is being promoted worldwide as “natural medicine”.

In the Philippines, as reported in the Business Mirror (Aug. 17, 2022), “A recent study conducted by the Department of Health (DOH) has indicated that around 3.6 million Filipinos found themselves battling mental disorders during the pandemic.”

No wonder manufacturers of “natural medicine” promote their own “all-natural alternatives”. One of them tries to convince us to take a vitamin D3 brand because it could help ease the symptoms of depression.

We know they make money because they sponsor ads and health programs in AM and FM radio stations.

I am afraid, however, that their adherents spend more for their products than for nutritious fruits and vegetables.

That’s depressing news, if true.



Due to steep rise in coal price and generation charges, MORE Power has raised the price of electricity in Iloilo City by two pesos starting its billing for the current month of November.

That amount representing pass-through charges for generation, transmission and taxes would be added to the present rate of P12.48 per kWh.

MORE Power imposes no added charges for distribution, supply and metering.

According to MORE Power PR lady Joy Fantilaga, this unwelcome development would not stop the company from looking for alternative generation sources that could roll back rates in succeeding months.

“For the meantime,” Fantilaga said, “we ask our consumers to act wiser in reducing electricity consumption.”

As far as I am concerned, I no longer switch  my air-conditioner on. The colder nights indicate it’s time to sleep even without using an electric fan.