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July 2013

SHARING AND HEALING ”  JULY  2013

               A QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER
          Written & Edited By  :  Al & Linda Vigil


ARTICLE INDEX
Pg 1 :  Grieving Notes - Linda V.
Pg 2 :  Suicide Prevention: 'Checking In'
Pg 4 :  That’s Men
Pg 6 :  Bullying for 17 Year Old
Pg 7 :  Lithium Reduces Suicide Risk
Pg 8 :  Prevention Signs on Bridge
Pg 9 :  Veteran’s Struggle With Suicide
Pg 11 : Apple’s “Suri”  -A Search Assistant
Pg 12 : Site Addresses  


                     “GRIEVING NOTES”
                                 By Linda Vigil
                             "Families In Grief"mia tree

Our lives as a family were Forever Changed, on January 5, 1984, when our 18year old daughter Mia, chose to end her life by suicide.
 
Our family received professional counseling and attended Survivors of Suicide
meetings that met once a month.
 
My oldest daughter also attended counseling and Survivors of Suicide meeting for about 6 months.  Our youngest daughter attended for approximately one year.  Through that 1st year SOS seemed to become a mission for Al and I.  Mia gave us the strength and courage to begin to help others.  We also became a voice for suicidal prevention and support to the many people left behind after the loss of someone they love to suicide.
 
Our oldest daughter began running from her pain. She stopped going to meetings and counseling —sharing with us that it was just to painful!  She soon started trying to mask her pain?  And our youngest daughter continued to be very angry at Mia.
 
Al and I continued to seek help for our family, and so we could be healthy enough to help others.  In reflection, I wanted us all to be safe, close, and enjoy life as a family.
What I didn’t realize is that we could not go back to where we were, before this terrible tragedy struck our family, extended family and our friends. More than not being able to go back, I soon found out that I could not control Al’s grief, or each of my daughter’s grief recovery!  I wanted so badly to take their pain away, even when my pain was devastating!  What I soon found out was that every family member has their own way and time with their grief recovery!
 
Sometimes people carry their anger and grief into relationships, blaming others for their pain, or not feeling that they deserve happiness, so they try to destroy with self destruction.  Some mask their pain and neglect getting help.  Some have to hit bottom with their addictions, drinking, drugs, and abusive relationships —anything to cover their pain.  Believe me when I say that the pain is so deep, you wonder how you can feel such pain and still be alive!
 
I have seen people after years of unending pain, reach out for help because what they used to try to cover the pain, no longer worked for them.  Finally realizing they had to Face, to Feel, and to Deal, with their pain, so they could be healthy, happy, and make good choices for their lives!
 
In Survivors of Suicide meetings I have come to realize that no matter how much you love someone, you are not responsible for their happiness, their well being, or their choices.  You may want those things for your loved one, but it is their journey, and they are responsible for their happiness and well being!
 
Al and I chose to be happy —and part of our happiness is helping grieving people, letting them know that happiness is a choice —and when they walk through the door of their first SOS meeting, they are telling Al and I, somehow, somewhere, they want to find meaning in their lives, in the midst of their tragedy and the deepest pain they will ever feel.
 
I describe the tragedy of suicide for the people left behind, as the worst roller-coaster ride they will ever be on.  But the hardest thing they have ever done is walk through our doors!  One of the most positive things we have ever done is to choose to work with such positive people and observe how very hard they work at putting meaning back into their lives!   

                            "Know That You Are Not Alone - Sharing Can Be Healing"



Suicide Prevention:  'Checking In' Can Cut Deaths in Half
                             By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES

A preliminary study of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reveals that follow-up calls to those who threaten suicide can cut deaths in half.  ABCNews has been exploring not only what motivates people to kill themselves, but highlights those who survive suicide attempts, witness them or work to prevent them. Suicide is never painless. It not only robs family members of loved ones, but affects all of American society when otherwise productive individuals see no worth to their lives.

A federal study shows, 8.3 million Americans —3.7 percent of all adults —have serious thoughts of suicide each year; 2.3 million make a plan and 1.1 million attempt suicide, resulting in an estimated 37,000 suicide deaths each year.  In some ways, that's the good news, according to John Draper, director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Most who consider suicide do not follow through. "People with the highest probability of killing themselves have tried before," he said. "The data shows about 7 percent who try to kill themselves will later die by suicide."

"The important thing is that 93 percent go on to live their lives," he said. "It's saying that even though this is a high-risk scenario, the overwhelming majority are doing OK, or better, and find ways to turn it around. How do they do that?"

Acts as simple as "checking in" with someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression can be an effective deterrent to suicide, according to Draper. Early research shows that follow-up calls to those who have contacted the suicide lifeline can cut deaths in half.  "First and foremost is the sense of meaningful connection in life," Draper said. "Someone or somebody who makes them feel they are cared about."

Suicide hotline boxes on the structures proved to be a failure, so an advocacy group pushed Washington state to erect barriers last year, and now the number of suicides has dropped. "We are very aware of how hotlines can prevent suicide and emotional distress, but there is a limitation on every intervention," said Draper. "You can't apply the same medical procedure for every problem."

According to Dr. Joseph Shrand, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who treats at-risk youth at the CASTLE program in Boston, barriers cannot address all the causes of suicide. In an interview this week, he said barriers are a "metaphor."  "It is really quite stunning to try to put up a structure to prevent suicide," he said. "The real barriers to people not getting help has to do with the entire stigma of mental illness — treating people as if they have a deviation and must pull themselves up by the bootstraps instead of a tie around their neck."

His novel approach, is based on a simple theory that, "It all starts with respect."  The underlying sense of trust and caring are at the root of other interventions that show promise, according to John Draper.

From a biological standpoint, suicidal tendencies can be seen as a coping mechanism to external influences, or domains  —family, social groups, environmental influences, as well as a person's own biology  —over which people have no control.  "It is always remarkable that people are not doing worse," Shrand said.

Preliminary research from a  team at Columbia University and NY State's Psychiatric Institute shows that follow-up calls with consenting Lifeline callers at suicide risk can help keep them safe. More than half of the persons at risk who were contacted after suicide threats reported that the calls "kept them from killing themselves," according to the study.

"Our results highlight the role that crisis centers can play to enhance the continuity of care for individuals at risk of suicide," said author Madelyn S. Gould, deputy director of the Research Training Program in Child Psychiatry at Columbia University. "Crisis centers are well-positioned to provide this service to their own callers and patients discharged from emergency rooms," she said.

Draper added that post cards, phone calls and personal visits to those who are suffering from depression can help. "Check in with individuals who are trying to hurt themselves and ask, 'How are you doing? I'm still thinking of you.' "  He cited research in New Zealand that shows such communications from hospital emergency departments reduced suicide attempts "by 50 percent."

Beyond showing those who are troubled that they are valued, Draper said providing counseling and guidance is critical to recovery —"teaching them skills to manage their thoughts and feelings." Availability of lethal weapons can also make the difference between life and death. Substance abuse also "clouds" a person's ability to make good decisions.  "A person feels they are never going to recoup their sense of dignity, never hold their head up, or a loss in life that they will never recover from and imagine an unending future that is hopeless," he said.

"There is a difference between a person who is in crisis or has a precipitating event as opposed to people who are chronically depressed," said Draper. "A lot of people exposed to trauma or a history of mental illness or have not learned how to manage their emotions." Those who are bipolar or have schizophrenia are often predisposed to suicidal thoughts. In those cases, cognitive behavioral therapy in conjunction with medication have shown to be effective.

"We can get them to a place where they see hope," said Draper. "It can be the difference between rolling a boulder or kicking a pebble up the hill."

The Following Are Some Signs That Might Indicate the Risk of a Suicide Attempt

✓   Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves;
✓   Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun;
✓   Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live;
✓   Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain;
✓   Talking about being a burden to others;
✓   Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs;
✓   Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly;
✓   Sleeping too little or too much;
✓   Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
✓   Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
✓   Displaying extreme mood swings.        



That’s Men: Suicide a Sad and Lonely Act
- That Can Have Many Explanations or None at All -  
                                  By Padraig O'Morain   -  June, 2013

I have been hearing about more and more cases of suicide lately. Some are related to the recession, some to more traditional triggers such as depression and some have come out of the blue.

One of the conclusions I have come to is that it is impossible to make any statement about suicide that holds true for all cases. For instance, some people seem to withdraw before they take their lives but others have been fully engaged with friends and family before the dreadful event.

It seems to me that the only statements we can make about suicide begin with the word  “sometimes.”

HERE IS MY ‘Sometimes’  LIST:

Sometimes suicide is impulsive. We can be fairly sure of this from US research showing that sometimes the decision and the act of suicide are separated by minutes, not hours.  This, of course, is exacerbated by the gun culture in the US, but here in Ireland we sometimes hear of people taking their lives apparently impulsively.  This, it seems to me, is one of the most frightening aspects of suicide.

Sometimes people who die by suicide are ambivalent about taking their lives. Why else do people (thankfully) ring up helplines before they act? And why have many people interrupted in the act gone on to live full lives?

Sometimes suicide is completely inexplicable. We hear of these suicides all the time: people who have everything going for them, who seem to be in fine form and who go and take their lives to the utter dismay of all around them. I suspect a concealed depression or despair in many of these cases but I cannot know.

Sometimes suicide is motivated by shame. This has been suggested (by a psychiatrist who treated army veterans) as an explanation for the shocking levels of suicide among US veterans. But I suspect this is also at work in some of the suicides that arose from our own economic catastrophe.

Sometimes suicide seems the only way out. What seems to happen here is that a person gradually rejects every solution to their problems except suicide. The conclusion that suicide is the only way out is irrational. This is obvious to outsiders but not to the person who is trapped in this blinkered thinking.

Sometimes people who take their own lives also have a longing for life. This also is why many people heading towards suicide will, nonetheless, engage with counsellors, helplines and relatives or friends. It is also why acknowledging people’s suicidal intentions, by explicitly asking them if they are suicidal, can be very helpful and effective.

Sometimes people just can’t face what the future holds. I suspect this is often behind the suicide of older people afflicted by bereavement, loneliness or pain.

Sometimes suicide is meticulously planned. Many people think about suicide but it is those who actively plan their suicide who are at huge risk. That is why it is a good idea to ask a person who is talking about suicide if they have made plans. If the answer is ‘Yes’, the situation is very serious.

Sometimes suicide spreads like a virus. We have all heard of clusters of suicide that were never reported in the media. It is truly frightening that knowledge of the suicide of others whom one has never met, in some cases, can lead to the taking of one’s own life.

Sometimes  the culture increases the likelihood of suicide. Is it a coincidence that suicide has risen as concepts such as solidarity and community have been pushed back by rampant individualism, for example, I’m alright Jack, I’ve got my iPod here to connect with and I don’t need you? What does the traveler culture, especially the taboo on admitting to and discussing mental health problems, contribute to the high rate of suicide in that culture?

What is the use of all this? Perhaps if we are to get to grips with suicide, we need to acknowledge that this sad and lonely act can have many explanations.

And,  sometimes  no explanation at all.



Bulling For 17-year-old :  Even After Death

            Teen, 17, Who Committed Suicide Tormented by Bully Even after Death
                                                 By Sasha Goldstein / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS   June 26, 2013

Gregory Spring suffered from Tourette syndrome, Callosum Dysgenesis, a developmental disorder, and constant bullying —even on his obituary condolence page.

Even death couldn't spare Gregory Spring a bully's torment.

Driven to take his own life by years of constant teasing, the 17-year-old's obituary condolence page was hijacked by a mean-spirited peer who couldn't resist getting in one last jab.

"HAHAHAHAHAHA HE DIED!!!!!   I HOPE HE IS IN HELLLLLLL,"  the sick student wrote.

For Spring's mother, Keri, it was the ultimate insult after six years of incessant bullying that ended in such terrible tragedy. The New York teen suffered from Tourette syndrome, a developmental disorder that affected how he processed information and emotions.

This mean-spirited comment reminds Greg's mother, Keri, that her son was constantly tormented.

"He was just a very compassionate, very loving, very emotional person that just wanted to be accepted," Keri told a TV reporter.  "He was just distraught but never showed it to us," she added.

Though the bullying started in fourth grade, it reached its peak this year for the Allegany teen. Greg had recently broken up with his girlfriend and, worse still, was tormented by a new student who relentlessly teased Greg at the Allegany-Limestone School. That fraught schoolhouse relationship culminated in a fight that led to Greg's temporary suspension from the Western New York school.

Keri Spring wants schools to prevent future teen suicides by confronting bullying head-on. "There came an incident where Greg actually picked him up and said, 'Stop bullying, bullying isn't good. Bullying is only going to hurt people,'" Keri said.

Greg was just finishing his sophomore year of high school when he killed himself on June 17, 2013.Keri says she contacted the school several times about bullying, warning them that Greg's classmates were making life difficult for him.  The superintendent at Allegany-Limestone School said  'the untimely loss of this student's life may be attributed to a factor or factors altogether unrelated to bullying.'  The school has an anti-bullying policy, and in a statement, the school's superintendent said Greg had not been bullied.

"Based on information received from the police, the untimely loss of this student's life may be attributed to a factor or factors altogether unrelated to bullying," Superintendent Karen Geelan wrote.

But Keri disagrees.  The fact that someone so twisted would taunt Greg even in death is proof enough the teen was tormented.  She's hoping now she can advocate for stricter rules or legislation that would prevent such a suicide in the future.

"When a bully is brought to your attention, it need to be hit head-on and stopped immediately," Keri said.


/ Can Reduce Suicide Risk In People With Mood Disorders
               Edited from articles - June 2013 “Medical News Today” and “MedPage Today”

Mood disorders are a major cause of global disability -the two main types are unipolar, which is commonly known as clinical depression, and bipolar disorder, which can also be called manic depression.  Both conditions are severe and long-term and involve extreme mood swings.  Patients with bipolar disorder, however, also experience episodes of mania or hypomania.

Lithium can reduce suicide risk and help prevent deliberate self harm in people with mood disorders, according a new study in British Medical Journal.  "Lithium is the best established drug for the treatment of bipolar disorder and it is the only one whose primary indication is bipolar disorder," he said.  "So we need to find out exactly what it does and how it works.  This should be a target of new drug development."

The research showed that the drug appeared to lower the likelihood of death and suicide by over 60% compared with placebo.  The finding "reinforces lithium as an effective agent to reduce the risk of suicide in people with mood disorders," the scientists said.  Lithium has a specific effect in preventing suicide, but not self harm, in patients with major mood disorders, according to an updated systematic review and meta-analysis.

People affected by a mood disorder have a 30 times higher likelihood of suicide than the general population.  Mood stabilizing drugs, such as lithium, anticonvulsants or antipsychotics, used for the treatment of these conditions can help keep mood within normal limits.

However, experts have not known their role in suicide prevention, and therefore, researchers from the universities of Oxford, UK and Verona, Italy set out to examine whether lithium has a particular preventive effect for suicide and self harm in patients with unipolar and bipolar mood disorders.

Forty-eight randomized controlled trials consisting of 6,674 volunteers were examined.  The studies compared lithium with either placebo or active drugs in long-term treatment for mood disorders.  Results showed that lithium was more successful than placebo in lowering the number of suicides and deaths from any cause.

However, no clear benefits were found for lithium in preventing deliberate self harm compared with placebo.  The experts said:  "When lithium was compared with each active individual treatment, a statistically significant difference was found only with carbamazepine for deliberate self harm.  Overall, lithium tended to be generally better than the other active treatments, with small statistical variation between the results."

"This updated systematic review reinforces lithium as an effective agent to reduce the risk of suicide in people with mood disorders," explained the investigators.

The drug's anti-suicidal effects may be exerted by "reducing relapse of mood disorder," the authors said.  However, they pointed out "there is some evidence that lithium decreases aggression and possibly impulsivity, which might be another mechanism mediating the anti-suicidal effect."

Lithium has many side effects, the scientists pointed out. However, doctors "need to take a balanced view of the likely benefits and harm of lithium in the individual patient."   The authors concluded: "Understanding the mechanism by which lithium acts to decrease suicidal behavior could lead to a better understanding of the neurobiology of suicide."

The updated analysis offers some of the strongest evidence yet that lithium has a specific role in preventing suicides among patients with mood disorders.  However, he cautioned that "this is a fairly toxic drug, and it takes a good deal of compliance to stay on it."





Suicide Prevention Signs to Be Erected on Pasadena Bridge
                                                         By Joe Piasecki  

Two hundred thirty people have taken their lives at Seattle's Aurora Bridge, making it the second-deadliest "suicide bridge" in the United States, behind the Golden Gate Bridge. In 2006, a record nine people jumped to their deaths. Some studies, including those by the national Lifeline show that iconic bridges and other physical structures draw those with suicidal impulses, but if barriers are in place, many deaths can be prevented.

Pasadena, California officials plan to install signs, similar to the one on the left, along the Colorado Street Bridge in an effort to curb suicides.

Hoping to dissuade despondent people from leaping to their deaths from the Colorado Street Bridge, Pasadena officials plan to install signs that encourage those considering suicide to instead call for help.

City workers will install two 12-by-18-inch metal signs at each end of the century-old bridge sometime over the next two months, Assistant City Manager Steve Mermell said. The signs will include the number of a suicide prevention hotline.

“If we can save even one life with one reasonable step we can take, we should,” said Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison, one for four elected city leaders to endorse the signs during a public meeting last week.

More than 100 people have taken their lives by jumping from the Colorado Street Bridge, which at its highest point rises to 148.5 feet. Since 2006, 13 people have jumped to their deaths from the bridge, including two women this year, Pasadena Police Chief Philip Sanchez said. Officials considered hanging wire nets beneath the bridge as early as 1929. But it wasn’t until 1937 — when a distraught woman took her 3-year-old daughter with her in a deadly plunge over the side — that officials finally took action.

The girl survived without serious injury, her fall broken by tree branches in the Arroyo Seco below.

The bridge got a 7 1/2-foot woven-steel fence topped with barbed wire, which was replaced by a different barrier in the 1950s before the current wrought-iron fence went up during a seismic renovation 20 years ago.

Even today, city officials sought support from local preservationists before publicly discussing the suicide prevention signs.  Officials said the project was inspired by similar signs installed at emergency phones along the Golden Gate Bridge in 2005.  But signs alone are not enough to stop all who are bent on self-destruction, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Medical Director Paula Clayton said.

“It’s clearly better than nothing, but there’s no evidence that putting up signs changes the rate of suicide from a bridge. The only effective stoppage, really, is putting up barriers that people cannot get over,” she said.

Sanchez said the signs are “one piece of a very complex solution to addressing suicide” that must include expanded public mental health services.

Councilwoman Jacque Robinson, an initial advocate for the signs whose older sister died by suicide 16 years ago, said the city must balance preserving history and public safety.

“Hopefully, this is the beginning and not the end of that discussion,” Robinson said.

 

 

 


 


 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 


 

 


 

 

 




  

VETERANS' STRUGGLE WITH SUICIDE    :   By Steven Hurst / Associated Press  / June 2013

Five years ago, Joe Miller, then an Army Ranger captain with three Iraq tours under his belt, sat inside his home near Fort Bragg holding a cocked Beretta 40mm, and prepared to kill himself.

He didn’t pull the trigger. So Miller’s name wasn’t added to the list of active-duty U.S. military men and women who have committed suicide.  That tally reached 350 last year, a record pace of nearly one a day.  That’s more than the 295 American troops who were killed in Afghanistan in the same year.

‘‘I didn’t see any hope for me at the time.  Everything kind of fell apart,’’ Miller said.  ‘‘Helplessness, worthlessness.  I had been having really serious panic attacks.  I had been hospitalized for a while.’’  He said he pulled back at the last minute when he recalled how he had battled the enemy in Iraq, and decided he would fight his own depression and post-traumatic stress.

The U.S. military and the Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledge the grave difficulties facing active-duty and former members of the armed services who have been caught up in the more-than decade-long American involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The system struggles to prevent suicides among troops and veterans because potential victims often don’t seek counseling given the stigma still associated by many with mental illnesses or the deeply personal nature —a failed romantic relationship, for example —of a problem that often precedes suicide.  Experts also cite illicit drug use, alcohol and financial woes.

The number of suicides is nearly double that of a decade ago when the United States was just a year into the Afghan war and hadn’t yet invaded Iraq.  While the pace is down slightly this year, it remains worryingly high.
The military says about 22 veterans kill themselves every day and a beefed up and more responsive VA could help.  But how to tackle the spiking suicide number among active-duty troops, which is tracking a similar growth in suicide numbers in the general population, remains in question.  The big increase in suicides among the baby boomer population especially  —linked by many to the recent recession  —actually began a decade before the 2008 financial meltdown.

Jason Hansman, of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, says the problem among military men and women stems from a support system that falls far short of the needs of a military and its veterans.  ‘‘One of the big problems now is that we are trying to play catch-up on 10-plus years of war.  People have gone back and forth seven, eight, nine times. And now you have a force that is stretched to its limit,’’ Hansman said.

‘‘It’s not just people who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan who are killing themselves.  About 50 percent are people who've never deployed before.  So there’s this broader issue going on in the military.  Are there even the health services in the military to take care of the troops who have deployed, who have no first-hand knowledge of war and trauma?’’

Miller had plenty of first-hand experience.  ‘‘I was really good at combat.  I was really good at that job. It was when I was in the States that I had a problem,’’ he said from his home in Old Town, Maine, where he and his second wife are working toward doctorates in history at the University of Maine.

He said symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome began building as did the effects of a number of concussions that caused mild traumatic brain injury. He had gone through elite Ranger training twice and became a jump-master in the 82nd Airborne. He ignored his symptoms because he didn’t want to leave combat and his job as a platoon leader. When he finally sought help from the military during his last rotation in the United States, he found what he said was a ‘‘19th century’’ attitude.

‘‘I remember a psychologist telling me ‘officers don’t get PTSD.’ It was a real affront.’’

A few days after he nearly killed himself on July 3, 2008, Miller mustered out of the service and resumed treatment for PTSD at a VA facility in Richmond, Virginia. The treatment was helpful but his feelings about the VA are ‘‘really mixed.  My take is they are a bunch of really well-meaning people.  I don’t know that it’s resourced for the tasks.’’ Also huge numbers of veterans —a tiny portion of the larger population —live in small towns, far from the cities where veteran services are available.

The American public, largely untouched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because an all-volunteer military did the fighting, is gradually becoming aware of the problems faced by active-duty troops and military veterans.  Now, some in Congress and President Barack Obama, are trying to improve on the country’s ability to take care of those who have signed up to fight.

None of that, however, undoes the anguish of such people as Ashley Whisler, whose brother Kyle killed himself Oct. 24, 2010.  He had been driving convoys of supplies to U.S. troops from Kuwait shortly after the American invasion in 2003.  He hanged himself in his home in Brandon, Florida, seven years after leaving the military.  He had returned to his family in Michigan then moved to Florida, married and had a daughter.  He and his wife separated before reconciling.  He worked in a tattoo parlor, tended bar and began showing increasing signs of PTSD. He hanged himself while his wife and daughter slept.

Ashley Whisler said her brother spoke of fears of being ambushed when he was driving to work in Florida.   After Kyle killed himself, her brother’s friends told her how Kyle repeatedly called to talk about the horrors he had witnessed in Iraq and of how he couldn’t sleep if there was a thunderstorm.

While she and her parents don’t directly blame the military or the VA for Kyle’s death, she does not let the department off the hook.

‘‘These guys are coming back from the war and just being thrown back into society without any kind of transition or any kind of support. It’s very difficult,’’ she said.

Joe Miller says his military training, in the end, kept him alive. ‘‘I had a gun in my hand. The second I cocked the weapon, I was back in Ranger mode and Ranger mode is not to kill yourself.’’




                APPLE’S  “SIRI”  SEARCH ASSISTANT   
                                                 By JOANNA STERN  June 2013

Apple Computer’s  “Siri”  can tell you where to find the nearest movie theater or Burger King, and, until recently, the iPhone voice assistant could inform you of the closest bridge to leap from.  Until a recent update, if you had told “Siri" I want to kill myself," the program would do a web search.  If you had told it,  "I want to jump off a bridge, "Siri”  would have returned a list of the closest bridges.  Now, Apple has directed the assistant to immediately return the phone number of the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

"If you are thinking about suicide, you may want to speak with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline," the service says aloud in response to "I want to kill myself."  “Siri” then asks if you would like to call the number.  If you don't respond for a short period of time, it automatically returns a list of local suicide prevention centers.  Click on the results and it will show them to you on a map.

Apple declined to comment on the new update when reached by ABCNews, but the company started working hand in hand with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline a few months ago.

"They were extremely excited and interested in helping, and they were very thorough about best approaches,"  John Draper, director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network, told ABC News. "We talked with a number of our national advisers and they advised us on key words that could better identify if a person was suicidal so it could then offer the Lifeline number."

“Siri”  is Smarter : But is the Personal Assistant Smart Enough?

In May 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that suicide rates were up in the U.S from 1999 to 2010, the last year for which they have reported stats.  The organization found that suicide rates increased 28 percent among those 35 to 64 years old during that period.

Many first reported  “Siri” responses to death-related statements when the service first debuted in 2011.  Those responses have now been replaced with the Lifeline number, though if you say "remind me to kill myself tomorrow" it will still bring up a calendar prompt.

This update has been hailed by many as a tremendous and potentially life-saving improvement, especially when compared to how long it used to take “Siri” to provide help for suicidal iPhone users in need.

So it's clear why Apple is receiving praise for these changes.  The company has recognized that "there's something about technology that makes it easier to confess things we'd otherwise be afraid to say out loud," says S.E. Smith at XOJane.  We share intimate things with our smartphones we may never say to even our friends, so it's critical that our technology can step in and provide help the way a loved one would.  "Apple's decision to take [suicide prevention] head-on is a positive sign," Smith adds.  "We can only hope that future updates will include more extensive resources and services for users turning to their phones for help during the dark times of their souls."

“Siri”'s suicide-detection skills, however, are rather easy to circumnavigate.  As Smith reports, if you tell “Siri” "I don't want to live anymore," she still responds "Ok, then."  And as Bianca Bosker notes at The Huffington Post, you can still search for guns to buy —which some people would say is the way it should be.  We may want “Siri” to stop people from searching for ways to hurt themselves or others, says Bosker, but there's the underlying ethical question of whether we want her interfering with our right to access information or our ability to make personal decisions, like buying a gun legally to use for target practice, for example.

The issue then becomes one of free will and moral decision-making.  "When “Siri” provides suicide prevention numbers instead of bridge listings, the program's creators are making a value judgment on what is right," says Jason Bittel at Slate.  Are we really okay with “Siri” making moral decisions for us?”





Visit the Albuquerque SOS Web Site for Albuquerque, NM, meeting Information at

www.sosabq.org

 

Visit the Newsletter Web Site for the Entire Archive of past Issues at www.sharingnhealing.org      

 


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