I owe Anthony Bourdain so much

I’ve always felt the urge to leave. Any place. No matter how beautiful. I want to go. When I was 18 and finished with high school, I attended my graduation ceremony, for the sake of my family, but I skipped my prom – Canada’s east coast was calling. I’d never been there before. I didn’t know what I’d find. But I was going. I made a life for myself out there, with university, work and music. I traveled up and down the coast. Cape Breton feels like a second home to me. I love the people of Maine. New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have a place in my heart.

But eventually, I left the east. Rage, the self-entitlement that sometimes comes from surviving a shitty childhood and a need for control left me very much out of control. I destroyed a fine long-term relationship looking for who I was. I burned bridges. I did terrible things to myself and others. It was time to move on. My travels took me back home to Ontario. My father was dying. I loved and hated him for who he was and what he had done to our family. Coming home was a terror.

Uneasily settled back into my hometown, I fought to push the dogs of my recent past down into the cellar of my soul where their bark did not seem so loud. I’d gone to university for journalism, but felt too shattered by life to write. I took on a job I despised and worked it for years. Read the rest

British court rules that the inhumane conditions in American prisons mean UK hacking suspect can't be legally extradited

Lauri Love is a British man on the autism spectrum who also has depression and severe eczema, who was facing extradition to America on charges of hacking US military and private agencies. Read the rest

Logan Paul says he posted video of him in a silly hat near a corpse to draw attention to the harsh reality of suicide

YouTuber Logan Paul filmed himself in a fluffy barnstormer hat looking for suicide victims in a Japanese forest and finding one to show to his 16 million viewers. He also pranced around the country making dumb and offensive jokes.

The outrage was such that YouTube booted him from the site's celebrity-tier ad platform, forcing him to issue a soft-focus apology and self-care PSA in which he is seen to have learned and paid for his lesson about why you don't pose in silly hats with suicide victims.

But the apology tour is showing cracks, with new excuses shining through: “the idea was to shock and show the harsh realities of suicide and get people talking about something that I don’t think people are talking about much.”

Logan Paul is continuing his apology tour following the widely criticized video of a dead body he posted on YouTube at the end of 2016. In an interview with Good Morning America today, the 22-year-old vlogger says that he posted Aokigahara forest video with a specific goal: “The idea was to shock and show the harsh realities of suicide and get people talking about something that I don’t think people are talking about much.”

Paul’s video, which he removed from YouTube after swift backlash, featured the vlogger heading into the forest with friends to do another “fun vlog,” he says. They planned to camp for the night and “make an entertaining piece of content in a forest.” Shortly after they entered the forest, he says, roughly 100 feet away from the parking lot, the group encountered the body of a man who appeared to have recently hung himself.

Read the rest

South Korea, gripped by suicide epidemic, criminalizes suicide-pacts

South Korea has one of the world's highest suicide rates -- it has steadily mounted since 2000, rising to 25.6 per 100,000. Read the rest

This high-tech suicide pod offers a quick, painless death and a built-in casket

Dutch doctor Philip Nitschke of Exit International has created the Sarco, a controversial "suicide machine" that allows people an easy exit.

AlterNet reports:

The Sarco is a technological marvel, resembling some kind of futuristic sleeping chamber, that aids in voluntary assisted dying. Australian doctor Philip Nitschke, whom Newsweek identifies as the "Elon Musk of assisted suicide,” unveiled the new apparatus earlier this week, just days after lawmakers in the state of Victoria voted to legalize euthanasia. The device simplifies what Nitschke dubs “rational suicides,” ensuring that the process is painless and easy—an optimal way to go.

...The machine includes a base topped by a translucent chamber perfectly proportioned to comfortably fit a human which. After settling in the pod, the user will push a button and the chamber will start to “fill up with liquid nitrogen to bring the oxygen level down to about 5 percent.” Around the minute mark, the user will become unconscious, experiencing almost no pain, according to the Newsweek report. (The doctor describes the changes as akin to “an airplane cabin depressurizing.”) After death comes, which is fairly swift, the chamber can be used as a coffin. The base, just fyi, is reusable.

...the Sarco “was designed so that it can be 3D printed and assembled in any location” and that blueprints “will be free, made open-source, and placed on the Internet.” While accessibility is a major selling point, there is one hurdle would-be users will need to clear: a “mental questionnaire” that’s available online.

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Algorithms analyze brain scans to identify people with suicidal thoughts

In a small-scale study, researchers have shown that algorithms can analyze brain scans to determine whether an individual has suicidal thoughts. During the study, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University scientists mentioned words like "death," "trouble," and "carefree" to individuals undergoing fMRI scans of their brains. Apparently those kinds of words spur different brain activity in people who have suicidal thoughts compared to those who don't. The hope is that a better understanding of brain function in suicidal people could lead to better tests to assess risk of suicide and improved psychotherapy. From IEEE Spectrum:

For the study, the researchers recruited 34 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30—half of them at risk, and the other half not at risk, of suicide. They showed the participants a series of words related to positive and negative facets of life, or words related to suicide, and asked them to think about those words.

Then the researchers recorded, with fMRI, the cerebral blood flow in the volunteers as they thought about those words, and fed the data to the algorithms, indicating which volunteers were at risk of suicide and which weren’t. The algorithms then learned what the neural signatures in the brain of a suicidal person tend to look like.

Then they tested the algorithms by giving them new neural signatures to see how well they could predict, based on learning from other subjects, whether someone was suicidal or not. The classifier did it with 91% accuracy. Separately, the classifier was able to identify, with 94% accuracy, which volunteers had actually made an attempt at suicide, versus having only thought about it.

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Dissociative psychedelic Ketamine may help suicidal children

Ketamine is a short-acting dissociative anesthetic commonly used on animals and sometimes people. Of course it's also beloved by many psychonauts for its unusual dreamlike or "out of body" psychedelic effects. While Ketamine has been shown for years to help treat depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder in adults, researchers at Yale School of Medicine now report that it has great promise as a fast-acting intervention for children in crisis. From Scientific American:

It was less dramatic to watch than I expected, but the kids were definitely high. There was a lot of giggling involved, and they often said that they felt like time was changing and that their bodies felt ‘funny’ and sometimes numb. Nicole, (a suicidal 14-year-old,) admitted, “I’m not gonna lie. I like the feeling of it.”

Perhaps more dramatic than the trips themselves, which happened in a carefully controlled procedure room with a psychiatrist and anesthesiologist ready to intervene if needed, were the interviews that came after. I could see the weight of depression lifted from these patients within hours. Adolescents who were previously ready to end their own lives became bright and hopeful. Psychiatry has never seen a drug intervention so powerful and fast acting. While most anti-depressants take weeks to work and offer modest improvement, ketamine offers dramatic improvement in less than a day...

Dr. Michael Bloch, Yale child psychiatrist and principal investigator of several controlled trials for ketamine for adolescents, points out that the drug is only used for select patients who have severe mental health problems that have not responded to other medications.

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The first transgender suicide hotline: 877-565-8860

Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860 ( Read the rest

Powerful video campaign in Scotland against mental health stigma

“Are you okay?” Read the rest

Suicide rates are highest in spring -- not around Christmas

No one's sure how the story of suicides increasing during holiday season got started (some researchers think it may have come from It's a Wonderful Life!), but it's not true. Read the rest

New photos from the scene of Kurt Cobain's suicide

UPDATE: Ooops, these photos were released in 2014.

Last year, the Seattle Police Department released several dozen newly-developed photos from the scene of Kurt Cobain's 1994 suicide. The police processed the film as part of a recent reinvestigation into Cobain's death. According to detective Mike Ciesynski, there is still no basis in conspiracy theories that Cobain was murdered.

Ciesynzki says that they will not release any graphic images of Cobain's body.

"What are people going to gain from seeing pictures of Kurt Cobain laying on the ground with his hair blown back, with blood coming out of his nose and trauma to his eyes from a penetrating shotgun wound," he told KIRO-TV. "How's that going to benefit anybody?"

"Dozens of new photos released from Kurt Cobain death probe" (CBS News)

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Woman thought to have attempted suicide wakes from coma, denies jumping from boat, may have been pushed

Laura Stuardo of Turin, Italy has been in a coma since July 19 after it was thought that she attempted suicide by jumping off a cruise ship. She's just woken up and insists she didn't jump, leading police to launch an attempted murder investigation. Read the rest

Native American teens commit suicide at alarmingly high rate

The reservation struggles with high unemployment and problems with substance abuse and gangs and is one of the poorest communities in the United States.

Will to live found with newer depression therapies

Will Lippincott spent decades trying to overcome depression, and almost gave up. At the end of his rope, he tried a variant form of cognitive behavior therapy developed to provide a "rubric for figuring out what was causing my anxiety, anger or sadness." For him, it is working.

D.B.T. [Dialetical Behavior Therapy] is a relatively young therapy. There is much more research to be done. Still, there is already compelling evidence of its effectiveness in its modified, less expensive formats. Mental health professionals and patients need to consider it directly alongside the usual programs and not as a treatment of last resort.

The image above depicts the suicide rate per 100,000 people across the world, according to the World Health Organization's figures. Read the rest

To do in LA: screening and Q&A with director of Aaron Swartz doc, "The Internet's Own Boy"

The film has been shortlisted for an Academy Award. After the screening, I will host a question and answer session with filmmaker Brian Knappenberger.

Groucho Marx on comics and depression

"I'm sure most of you have heard the story of the man who, desperately ill, goes to an analyst and tells the doctor that he has lost his desire to live and that he is seriously considering suicide. Read the rest

Stephen Hawking backs assisted suicide

"We don't let animals suffer, so why humans?" [BBC] Read the rest

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