Among Tony Bourdain’s many attributes was this one: He appreciated Butte, America.
“It’s not pretty,” he said to me, gazing at the Continental Pit and the East Ridge beyond. “But it’s deeply beautiful.”
We talked about the town’s charm, its big heart and indefatigable spirit, its economic development efforts and prospects.
And we talked about kids and suicide.
Bourdain had a great chat with Aaron Parrett at Lydia’s and one with Amanda Curtis at the Silver Dollar. And I will always be grateful that I got to go fishing with him, and eat a steak he cooked perfectly on a grill on the edge of my favorite fishing stream on the planet.
Bourdain’s suicide leaves those who knew him personally and those who knew him on their televisions feeling the emptiness and asking the questions that always follow suicide. Knowing and admiring him in both ways leaves me absolutely stunned and greatly saddened.
Think, then, about how often this tragedy is repeated across the country and particularly across this state. The Centers for Disease Control, on the very day we learned of Bourdain’s passing, issued a report showing that suicide has increased 25 percent in this country in the 25 years ending in 2016. In that year alone more than 45,000 Americans took their own lives. Oh: And Montana leads all states in suicide rate.
Butte’s own struggles with suicide, particularly among its youths, are well-documented and frequently reported. The town is taking laudable steps to combat this scourge, with its Community Action Team, with outreach to children and teens, emphasis on school attendance, and other measures.
But when the light of life goes out so close to us, we are all diminished. And we are reminded to take action — to keep those we love close and make sure we’re there; to engage, and ask, speak up, and urge help.
Those questions, after the fact, might be the start of solutions, before.
If you are considering suicide or know someone who is, help is available at the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
See also: Suicide Prevention Center at www.sprc.org/states/montana.