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I've been spending a lot of time over at promoteprevent.org recently. www.promoteprevent.org is a part of Education Development Center, Inc.(EDC)—a leading global nonprofit organization established in 1958 that designs, delivers and evaluates innovative programs to address some of the world’s most urgent challenges in education, health, and economic development.
They follow four guiding principles:
Visit their site and get involved with the incredible work they are doing.
Christian Adamek, a 15-year-old from Huntsville, Alabama, hung himself days after he was arrested for streaking at a high school football game.
This article is a dramatic example of the changing times we live in and the harsh perceptions we're faced with.
After Adamek’s arrest, the teenager was expelled from school and faced charges of public lewdness. If convicted he could have been placed on the a sex-offender registry.
For the full article...
Turning Suicide Statistics Around
Great article from Phil Ferolito / Yakima Herald-Republic.
HARRAH — At best, the memory is a vague dream, said 15-year-old Lilia Vera.
She was bleeding from her wrist when she put a noose around her neck at her home in Harrah. Everything was a blur. She remembers waking up in her brother’s arms as he said: “No, no.”
She was rushed to a hospital and later taken to a mental health facility in Yakima, where she stayed for a few days before returning home.
Overcome by depression and feelings of hopelessness, Vera nearly became another statistic in a growing problem in Yakima County and on the Yakama Reservation in particular: suicide.
Read the rest HERE...
While DC Comics didn't mean to, they've become an example of the ignorance a majority of people have about the seriousness of suicide. Recently the comic book publisher announced a contest, “DC Entertainment’s Open Talent Search", to draw in new artistic talent. The contest included drawing several panels of character Harley Quinn in outlandish circumstances; the last of these circumstances had Quinn naked, in a bathtub, surrounded by blow dryers, toasters, and other electronic appliances, apparently preparing to kill herself. This was done right before National Suicide Prevention Week.
As you can imagine, this didn't sit well with the general public and advocates for suicide awareness.
Jimmy Palmiotti, who is writing the ongoing Harley Quinn series, attempted to apologize for the mess up saying, "I should have put it clearly in the description that it was supposed to be a dream sequence with Amanda and I talking to Harley and giving her a hard time. I should have also mentioned we were thinking a Mad magazine /Looney Tunes approach was what we were looking for...I am sorry for those who took offense, our intentions were always to make this a fun and silly book that broke the 4th wall, and head into issue 1 with a ongoing story/adventure that is a lot like the past Powergirl series we did. I hope all the people thinking the worst of us can now understand that insulting or making fun of any kind was never our intention."
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention had already voiced their disapproval; calling the contest "insensitive and potentially dangerous," and decried their choice to not go with a more hopeful message.
DC came out again and said, "The purpose of the talent search was to allow new artists an opportunity to draw a single page of a 20-page story. True to the nature of the character, the entire story is cartoony and over-the-top in tone, as Harley Quinn breaks the 4th Wall and satirizes the very scenes she appears in. DC Entertainment sincerely apologizes to anyone who may have found the page synopsis offensive and for not clearly providing the entire context of the scene within the full scope of the story."
Does DC truly understand why the uproar over the panel or is this a PR ploy to ease the tension? Does it matter?
Suicide is too often used as a punchline or lightly referenced with little to no thought given to the weight it carries. A comic book company, who ideally caters to younger viewers, may not know that this generation is inundated with violent images. On top of the that, cyber bullying is in the headlines more and more in reference to suicide. When an image of a comic book character is shown in a cartoony way, that sends a message.
This is no longer a case of "Oh, it's just a comic book." We live in a time where we have a responsibility to understand what are youth are going through. DC Comics would do well to publish a special suicide awareness story. Not as a way to say they are sorry but because it's necessary and the right thing to do.
The Story of Martin Manley.
Martin Manley was a sports reporter and statistician in Kansas City. Before his suicide this month, he spent over a year building a vast website. The site gives Manley's reasons for killing himself and recounts much of his life.
A fascinating look at someone's life and the thought process of suicide. Head over to CNN to read the full story.
A Powerful Campaign!
The Miami Ad School created a series of thought provoking posters aimed at suicide prevention in LGBT youth. With the tagline “Words Can Kill,” the images demonstrate how bullying with hurtful and derogatory slurs can have serious consequences. The images are disturbing and shocking, yet serve as a powerful reminder that bullying isn’t always physical. Just this week a 16-year-old named A.J. Betts from Iowa became the fifth student in five years to take his own life at his school. As his mother said in the wake of his passing, “even if we can save one more life from bullying, that would be a success.”
Visit the The Miami Ad School to see the posters.
A great article by Boston Globe Correspondent Karen Weintraub talking about how the Military is monitoring social media to cut the suicide rate.
"Nearly every day, an active-duty service member takes his or her own life, causing waves of grief among families and peers. And each day, on average, 22 military veterans in the United States commit suicide. Roughly one in five Americans who commit suicide is or was in the service. The military has been working aggressively since 2007 to try to stem suicides, but everyone agrees there will be no easy fix.
Now, however, big-data specialists, including the Newton software firm Attivio Inc., are collaborating with military suicide experts to try to address the problem by using social media to monitor veterans for signs of despondency.
The specialists said they are identifying key words and phrases that suggest someone is spiraling downward, while developing an analytics system that could examine thousands of online posts and alert medical specialists and family members when a veteran’s comments indicate he or she is at risk of committing suicide.
Relatively few people come out and say they are suicidal. But by tracking the postings of veterans who agree to participate in the system, organizers hope eventually to identify those at high risk, and to intervene early enough to make a difference.
The program, called the Durkheim Project after the man known as the father of sociology, Emile Durkheim, is developing algorithms to determine which phrases or combination of phrases are most predictive of suicide attempts.
“It’s the words they are using that’s the reliable signal,” said Chris Poulin, the director and principal investigator of the Durkheim Project and a predictive-analytics expert.
Although Poulin would not reveal the precise phrases the Durkheim Project has identified, suicide researcher Craig Bryan, a University of Utah psychologist who is advising the project, said that the coded language of the suicidal often includes phrases such as “You’d be better off without me,” “I messed everything up,” and “I can never be forgiven for my mistakes.”
Moreover, behaviors such as buying a gun or giving away belongings can help to identify at-risk veterans and are often reported on social media, Bryan said.
In the first phase of the project, which was just completed, Poulin and colleagues developed a language-driven predictive model to estimate suicide risk.
They based their research on doctors’ notes from the records of three groups of veterans: those who had committed suicide, those who had psychiatric challenges but were not suicidal, and those with no apparent psychiatric issues.
From the doctors’ notes, Poulin said, it was possible to distinguish between the three groups.
Those whose psychiatric problems were not life-threatening tended to talk about their eyesight, for example, or their preoccupations and personal hygiene. Those who were healthy talked to their doctors about muscle or joint pain or eating disorders. And the suicidal discussed their agitation and fears, along with their need for painkillers.
In the next phase of the Durkheim Project, Poulin and others will test the predictive quality of those insights among as many as 100,000 service members and veterans who agree to have their social media and mobile posts shared.
This kind of varied language, as well as the shorthand used on social media, can be extremely challenging to analyze, said Sid Probstein, the chief technology officer for Attivio, which is responsible for that analysis.
How those phrases change over time can also be a warning sign, Probstein said, so a huge amount of data has to be gathered from text messages, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets and analyzed.
This kind of analysis of so-called “natural language” has been possible only recently, Probstein said, “so it’s really only in the last decade that you could imagine doing something like the Durkheim Project.”
Facebook, which helped debug the program, will assist in recruiting volunteers, Poulin said. The military provided a two-year start-up grant for the research.
Eventually, those whom the project identifies as at-risk will be automatically linked to resources in their area to get help, and their support network will be notified.
Users will be able to opt in and out of the system, so their privacy will not be compromised by the data analysis without their knowledge, said Poulin, who also worked with former colleagues at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.
“You don’t just get the person to opt in, but you get their friends and family to opt in, and let family know this person is suffering,” Poulin said.
If they do not have such support in their lives, there are scripts that can be read to at-risk people that have been shown to help, he said.
Even people who feel alone will leave a footprint on Facebook or via a text, Poulin said. “Their social network may be very small, but not so small that they don’t use a phone,” said Poulin.
Bryan, associate director of the National Center for Veterans’ Studies at the University of Utah, said the pressures on the military have increased exponentially over the past decade, as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on and downsizing has meant service members doing more with less, increasing their stress and suicide risk, both during their service and after retirement.
Multiple deployments also take their toll on service members, who may be away from home for most of six or seven straight years, said Kelly Posner, director of the Center for Suicide Risk Assessments at Columbia University.
In combat, service members are distracted by the urgency of their tasks. Now that the wars are winding down and they are back home for good, “they’re having to face what they saw, what they did, what they didn’t do, their unmet mental health risks, their families that have not been together,” she said.
Suicide, she said, is the fourth-leading cause of death for those ages 18 to 64, and probably the most preventable, “but we need to keep working hard.”
By using observable behavior, the Durkheim Project may help the invisible become visible, Bryan said.
“That is really one of the missing links in suicide prevention, both inside and outside military.”"
First Book Virtual Book Drive
We are very excited to be partnering with First Book (www.firstbook.org). First Book has distributed more than 90 million books to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada. By making new, high-quality books available on an ongoing basis, First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and the elevating the quality of education. You should know that 42% of children in the United States — more than 30 million — live in low-income households. The majority of the poorest kids have no age-appropriate books at home, and the classrooms and programs they attend are woefully under-resourced. For every one book or other reading resource available to a child in a low-income neighborhood, a child of means has nearly 300.
Please visit our virtual book that we're doing with First Book. You can donate any amount and know that it goes to put a new book in a child's hand. Thank you.
A collection of hope from a number of people.