What should we do about our end of days?

April 19, 2016

My wife Rachel, whom you know as Crane-Station, just returned from Seattle where she was visiting her dying father. Her mother is in declining heath and unlikely to survive him by more than a year. I’ve been through this end-of-life experience with my parents. They passed in 1999 (father) and 2000 (mother).

She is close to her parents. I was not close to mine. She has siblings to share the experience. I was an only child. Despite different relationships with our parents, both of us have experienced emotional storms that are difficult to describe.

My father succumbed to Alzheimers. I watched him die by inches and that experience damn near killed me. I do not want to die that way. I’m willing to take my life, if I find myself drifting down the river of forgetfulness.

I have been thinking a lot lately about dying and what to do about it. Rachel’s father is in his nineties. He saw it coming. Imprisoned in a dying body, he made sure his affairs were in order and prepared himself to die.

But he didn’t die . . .

He is more aware than my father was.

I do not plan to let death choose when I pass.

What about you?

Robin Williams was a canary in the coal mine

August 13, 2014

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Good morning:

Robin Williams appeared to have everything that a person might desire, but it was not enough.

I have been contemplating suicide on and off for many years, but haven’t pulled the plug, and I have not achieved the material success that he achieved or the admiration of millions of fans.

I remember deriving comfort when I was a child from the comforting realization that I could end my miserable life anytime and be no worse off than I was before I was born.

I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not depressed.

Absence of meaning in a world gone mad greets me everywhere I look.

Yet, I persevere somehow and do not know why.

Robin Williams’s surrender informs me that I am not alone.

NBC News reports today,

The suicide rate among Americans 45 to 64 has jumped more than 30 percent in the last decade, according to the CDC, and it’s possible to slice the data more finely than that. Among white, upper-middle-aged men, the rate has jumped by more than 50 percent, according to the public data. If these men were to create a breakaway territory, it would have the highest suicide rate in the world.


“We absolutely have to start focusing attention on the middle aged,” said Julie Phillips, a sociologist at Rutgers and among the first researchers to notice the rise in Boomer suicides. In a paper she presented last year, she argued that Boomers are “the tip of the iceberg.” They have the highest suicide rate right now, she found. But everyone born after 1945 had a higher suicide rate than expected—and everyone is on pace for a higher rate than the Boomers.

She calls it, “the new epidemiology of suicide.”

Houston, we have a problem.

Robin Williams committed suicide

August 12, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Good afternoon:

Robin Williams hanged himself.

NBC is reporting:

Comedian and actor Robin Williams, 63, died from “asphyxia due to hanging,” according to preliminary findings announced at a press conference on Tuesday by Lt. Keith Boyd of the Marin County’s Sheriff’s Office.

Williams was discovered on Monday shortly before noon by his personal assistant who became concerned when the actor did not respond to several knocks on the door, Boyd said. Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider, last saw her husband alive around 10:30 p.m. when she went to bed.

Schneider left the home around 10:30 a.m. Monday, assuming Williams was still asleep, Boyd said. Williams had retired to a different room and was found fully clothed with a belt tied around his neck. The belt was wedged between the closet door and door frame, and Williams “was in a seated position slightly suspended off the ground,” Boyd said. “What that means is that his body looked like he was sitting in a chair.”

I’m stunned and I will miss him.

Seems to me that we are having a suicide epidemic.

Why are so many talented and successful people, who seem to have it all, committing suicide?

Suicide rate increased during the Great Recession

June 12, 2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Good afternoon:

According to a study published on-line yesterday in the British Journal of Psychiatry, North America and Europe together experienced roughly 10,000 more suicides during the severe [financial] downturn than the trend from earlier years predicted.

While the report shows a correlation between economic turmoil and increased suicide rates, it can’t prove a causal relationship, the researchers note. It can’t prove that the people who lost their jobs or the homes were the ones who committed suicide. But the differing trends in the suicide rates of different countries deserve a closer look, says Aaron Reeves, a sociologist at the University of Oxford, who led the research.

“The first thing we need to do is try and understand what exactly is driving this rise,” Reeves says.

He proposes more research into the causes of suicide.

I think he is on to something. Mere coincidence seems unlikely.

What do you think?

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NBC Special Report tonight on juveniles placed in solitary confinement

March 22, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

NBC News is reporting this evening that:

For each of the past five years, roughly 100,000 juveniles have been held in adult jails and prisons, according to data from the Department of Justice.

Defense attorney Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Montgomery, Ala.-based Equal Justice Initiative, told NBC these youths are getting unfairly harsh treatment for the crimes they commit.

“Ninety-one percent of the children who are serving time in adult jails and prisons are serving time in jails and prisons for crimes that are not murder, crimes that are not sex crimes,” he said. “Solitary confinement is pretty horrible for anybody, but it’s especially horrible for a child. It is psychological torture.”

When juveniles are locked up with adults, they may be placed in protective custody, which means solitary confinement.

Sometimes they commit suicide because they cannot handle solitary.

Human Rights Watch and The American Civil Liberties Union published a report last October that included information collected by the New York City Department of Corrections. For example, in fiscal year 2012, 14 percent of all detained adolescents were held in solitary at least once.

Ian Kysel, the author of the report said,

I spoke to kids. They talked about being in a cell alone, the size of a parking space, the size of an elevator. This is sort of the dark secret of the criminal justice system. … Jails and prisons don’t make available their data on solitary confinement.

According to Kysel, the average length of solitary confinement for youths locked up last year at Ryker’s Island was 43 days.

Solitary confinement is torture. NBC reports,

Stuart Grassian, a Boston-based psychiatrist who is an expert on solitary confinement, cites CIA research done in the 1950s, which found solitary confinement made American prisoners of war in North Korea go psychotic.

“What was produced by that was a person who was so unhinged, he was confused, disoriented, disheveled,” he told NBC News, “They wouldn’t sometimes know who they were. They couldn’t think.”

For more information watch Ted Koppel’s full report tonight on teenagers in solitary confinement on “Rock Center With Brian Williams” Friday, March 22, at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT.

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