WBEZ | suicide http://www.wbez.org/tags/suicide Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en After the accident: Metra and pedestrian fatalities http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/after-accident-metra-and-pedestrian-fatalities-110875 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/170234239%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-Jvys6&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Frequent commuters are all too familiar with the pangs of delays: the groans induced by announcements made over a train intercom, or the confusion created when train or bus operators suggest alternative routes, thanks (or no thanks) to weather, mechanical failures, or backups.</p><p>Chicago-area Metra riders are no strangers to these feelings, but often these delays are brought on by another, more heart-dropping reason: pedestrian accidents and fatalities. It&rsquo;s not uncommon for up to 1,300 Metra riders to be held on a train for more than an hour while investigators gather at the scene to determine what happened.</p><p dir="ltr">And while many wonder why so many of these accidents happen, or how they can be stopped, a Curious Citizen (who chose to remain anonymous) had us consider this question:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>How can a thorough investigation of Metra fatalities be performed when trains are up and running 90 minutes after a fatality?</em></p><p>It&rsquo;s a bit of a loaded question, of course, as our questioner is basically asking whether a 90-minute timeframe is sufficient to gather evidence.</p><p>From the first moment we spoke with the questioner, we knew this would be sensitive topic, for sure, but experts did make themselves available to explain how pedestrian death investigations work, and they were also willing to address the &ldquo;90 minutes&rdquo; figure directly. And the question&rsquo;s important, too. The issue of pedestrian fatalities by train is regularly <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-metra-suicides-met-20140825-story.html" target="_blank">in the Chicago-area news</a>. Also, anyone involved &mdash; a victim&#39;s family,&nbsp;commuters on the train, taxpayers in Illinois &mdash; deserves to know exactly what&rsquo;s going on outside that train once tragedy strikes.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The extent of the problem</span></p><p>Pedestrian fatalities by Metra trains, or any type of train, for that matter, are not new phenomena. Train deaths, both intentional and accidental, have been an issue for rail officials across the world. <a href="http://gazebonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/ian_savage_438_manuscript.pdf" target="_blank">But as Northwestern University researcher Ian Savage found out</a>, these incidents are happening in Illinois more than any other place in the United States.</p><p>According to Savage, one of the main reasons is Chicago&rsquo;s position as a national rail hub.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s a combination of the number of trains and the geography,&rdquo; Savage said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re fairly flat around here, and if you go out east, you&rsquo;ll find many more hills. Because trains [there] can&rsquo;t get up steep grades, you have to level this out by digging cuts, you make embankments, so you end up with a lot more natural grade separation. And here in Chicago, we have little natural grade separation.&rdquo;</p><p>Savage looked at data from the Illinois Commerce Commission from 2004 to 2012, and accounted for 338 pedestrian deaths by train within the six-county Chicago area. (Notably, Savage&rsquo;s research did not include the Chicago Transit Authority&rsquo;s elevated trains). Put another way, the area saw one pedestrian death by train every 10 days. Approximately 47 percent of the incidents were suicides.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/metra%20graphic%20mockup%203%20final_2.png" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/metra%20graphic%20new%20stats2.png" title="*Data from Chicago metropolitan region, 2004-2012. Note: Does not include CTA data. Non-motorized persons include pedestrians and bike-riders. Source: Ian Savage, Northwestern University " /></div></div><p>According to Savage, these fatalities happen for a variety of reasons. When it comes to accidents, many times people don&rsquo;t understand how dangerous trains really are.</p><p>&ldquo;In some cases, crossings are designed in a way that good people are lead into making bad decisions. And I think that perceptions of speed are very difficult,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;d never think about jaywalking across an interstate because there are cars every few seconds. But there are five, 10 [minutes], half an hour where there&rsquo;s no activity on train tracks. So you can always get led into this cognitive assumption that nothing&rsquo;s coming, when something is.&rdquo;</p><p>And while the complexity of suicide makes it difficult to understand the reasoning behind individual deaths, Savage said the frequency and high number of occurrences is likely connected to the availability of trains around Chicago. Through his research, Savage stumbled on a study from Children&rsquo;s Memorial Hospital that looked at methods of suicide. They found that the use of trains in the Chicago area was more than four times the national average.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Metra-related investigations</span></p><p>Beyond the magnitude of these fatalities, Metra faces another predicament, one that&rsquo;s different from those of state or city agencies: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZrzuzWv2wY" target="_blank">Metra prides itself on its timeliness</a> and its ability to get commuters home on time. Its slogan is &ldquo;The way to really fly,&rdquo; and their signs read phrases such as &ldquo;We&rsquo;re on time, are you?&rdquo;</p><p>So when tragedy strikes, not only do Metra officials have to worry about the victim of the incident, but the thousands of passengers sitting on the train. In our question-asker&rsquo;s case, she read that trains were up and running 90 minutes after her friend was struck. (Metra officials say delays that day &mdash; including residual delays for other trains on that line &mdash; ranged anywhere between 30 and 110 minutes.)</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/metra%20photo%201%20LC.jpg" title="Metra signs advertise the agency's ability to arrive places on time, without delay. (WBEZ/Lauren Chooljian)" /></div></div><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a process in place, a lot of times there&rsquo;s a lot of different factors that are involved in that incident which may extend that investigation, or there may be a train strike where we hit a pedestrian, and that person ends up being fine,&rdquo; said Hilary Konczal, director of Safety at Metra. &ldquo;I mean, we&rsquo;ve hit people and we&rsquo;ve broken a leg or an arm, and we were up and moving in 20 minutes, so it depends on the situation.&rdquo;</p><p>Konczal said every investigation begins the same way: A dispatcher is immediately notified of anything that happens on Metra railroads or that involves a Metra train. That dispatcher then notifies a control center, which reaches out to the municipality where the incident occurred.</p><p>&ldquo;Normally we get the call first,&rdquo; said Des Plaines Police Chief William Kushner. &ldquo;And we&rsquo;ll get it either from people waiting for the train, or someone driving past. And they&rsquo;ll call that someone was struck by a train or someone just jumped in front of a train.&rdquo;</p><p>The local municipality usually arrives on the scene first because of their close proximity. They&rsquo;ll secure the scene, meet with the train crew, and begin to gather witness testimony. Metra also has its own police force. Its officers do their best to get to the scene ASAP, but it could take some time, as the six-county service area is about the size of Connecticut. Once both departments are on scene, one will take the lead.</p><p><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="420" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/metramap.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><em>Metra rail lines cover six counties and more than 110 municipalities. The service area is about the size of the state of Connecticut, which means travel times for investigators and other responders can be sizable.</em></span></p><p>&ldquo;Usually, if Metra police investigate the incident, we can do it a little quicker. We have evidence technicians on scene 24 hours [per day], and a lot of times local municipality doesn&#39;t have that. They have to call them in, so that may add time to investigation,&rdquo; Konczal said.</p><p>Konczal said his staff constantly network with the over 110 municipalities that Metra travels through, so when an incident happens &ldquo;we have a rapport with them, so we can get traffic moving as soon as possible.&rdquo;</p><p>But depending on the type of accident, and how long it takes to gather all the correct people together, investigations can still take a while. Konczal said if Metra strikes a vehicle, federal regulations require that signals be tested, for example.</p><p>In a fatality situation, officials have to report information to the ICC and the Federal Railroad Administration. Almost all Metra trains have cameras on them now, as do some grade crossings, so film has to be reviewed to determine what happened, and to assess whether it was an intentional death or not. They also have to wait for a coroner to arrive, as he or she has to respectfully remove the remains.</p><p>The Metra Police Department was recently assessed by <a href="http://www.hillardheintze.com/books/metrapolicedept_01_23_14/" target="_blank">Hillard Heintze</a>, an independent council of retired police chiefs. While the group <a href="http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140122/news/701229709/" target="_blank">found many issues with the department overall</a> (e.g., unclear mission, ineffective or nonexistent policies and procedures, staffing issues, etc.) the report did not address how Metra conducts fatality investigations.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/metra%20investigation%20full.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Metra officials investigate a commuter train accident in 2004 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)" /></p><p>Metra officials say there&rsquo;s no minimum or maximum amount of time that they try and meet for each investigation. Other police departments operate this way as well.</p><p>&ldquo;If there&rsquo;s a fatality, there are no minimums,&rdquo; said Monique Bond, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Police Department. &ldquo;The main thing is to get the victims, whether they&rsquo;re dead or hurt. That&rsquo;s the priority.&rdquo;</p><p>Bond said each investigation varies tremendously, depending on the incident: It could be hours, or it could be one hour.</p><p>But what doesn&rsquo;t change per incident, according to Metra officials and police, is the difficulty of dealing with these fatalities, both for him and his staff.</p><p>Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall said his department, like many others around the state, provides mental health services for any officer that responds to traumatic events. Naperville recently dealt with two suicides by train.</p><p>Konczal added that Metra staff take the issue of pedestrian deaths personally. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re people. They may be your brother, my sister, your friend, it&rsquo;s just a shame,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We have employees that go out there. We have the engineer that&rsquo;s traumatized, and the family of the deceased. ... I mean, it&rsquo;s real, and it gets very personal, and at times it gets frustrating.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re constantly looking at ways to educate the public. We&rsquo;re looking at our numbers, the day of the week incidents occur - and it gets frustrating trying to identify how to reduce these risks, without trying to put up some sort of virtual fence. It&rsquo;s just very hard.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Waiting in the wings</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/steven%20vance%20bartlett%20station.jpg" title="Signage at Metra's Bartlett station on the Milwaukee District/West Line route indicates safety precautions for pedestrians crossing the tracks. (Flickr/Steven Vance)" /></p><p>Metra, as well as local law enforcement agencies, suggest that some investigations can take far less than the 90-minute figure that started our look into train-related pedestrian deaths. According to Joe Schwieterman, transportation professor at DePaul University (and Metra rider for 23 years), delays of any kind can be difficult to bear.</p><p>&ldquo;You feel the tension on board right away, people start making phone calls, and after five or ten minutes, you know, you start to wonder, &lsquo;Is this gonna be a nightmare?&rsquo; So that speculation starts,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>According to Schweiterman, everyone in the region has been startled by how a fairly small commuter rail system (in the national sense) has such a regular pattern of hitting people. And a lot of it, he said, isn&rsquo;t on Metra.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a whole series of issues, like willful deaths, and of course just a preponderance of freight trains which makes these crossings very difficult, and even just people dying on the tracks who, you know - drug use along railway tracks - there&rsquo;s a long history of a place where deviants often go.&rdquo;</p><p>But when it comes to whether these investigations are long enough or comprehensive enough, Schwieterman said anything longer than the current delays wouldn&rsquo;t be practical.</p><p>&ldquo;My view is that there&rsquo;s rarely a complex investigation needed,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;When somebody gets hit, the reason that person got hit is important from a data standpoint &mdash; and I mean, of course, for the family it&rsquo;s an absolute travesty &mdash; but from an investigation standpoint we need to know why people are getting hit and how we can fix the problems.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;But it&rsquo;s not like a crime scene, where there&rsquo;s an assailant out there who we have to find, and he may have left a clue behind.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>If you or someone you know exhibits any of the <a href="http://reportingonsuicide.org/warning-signs-of-suicide/" target="_blank">warning signs of suicide</a>, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)</strong></p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ Reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/after-accident-metra-and-pedestrian-fatalities-110875 After suicide attempt, college student helps others deal with mental illness http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/after-suicide-attempt-college-student-helps-others-deal-mental-illness-109943 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 1.43.50 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p>Three years ago, Wesleyan college student Molly Jenkins tried to take her own life&mdash;twice.</p><p>Molly told her mom that her suicidal thoughts first began while recovering from a major surgery that left her bedridden.</p><p>After 6 months of therapy at Chicago&rsquo;s Rush Hospital, she returned to college and became a mental health advocate.</p><p><strong>Molly: &ldquo;It was really important for me to come out with this stamp on my forehead that said, &lsquo;I&rsquo;ve attempted suicide and I don&rsquo;t care what you guys think&rsquo; because I knew there were other people who, like me, were suffering in silence.&rdquo;</strong></p><p>To hear Molly and her mother discuss this trying period in their lives for the first time, check out the audio above.</p><p><em>Meredith Zielke is a WBEZ producer. </em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 14:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/after-suicide-attempt-college-student-helps-others-deal-mental-illness-109943 Daughter tries to come to terms with father's suicide http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/daughter-tries-come-terms-fathers-suicide-109826 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/storycorps ann tom.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>A few years ago Anne Emerson decided to visit her mom in Boston while on break from law school. One early morning during her stay they got a phone call. It was about her father &hellip; and the news wasn&rsquo;t good. What happened next gave Anne a greater perspective on illness, abandonment, and the will to live. She shared her experience with partner Tom Gallagher at the Chicago StoryCorps booth.</p><p><strong>ANNE:</strong> Everyone has something, that if they had to live without it, it wouldn&rsquo;t be life anymore.</p><p>For her father, she said, it was losing his mental faculties after developing dementia. Anne already had abandonment issues with her dad from an early age.</p><p><strong>ANNE: </strong>The only really big problem I have with his &lsquo;method of exit&rsquo; if you will, is that&hellip; just when you think someone can&rsquo;t find a new way to leave you&hellip; they do.</p><p>To find out how Anne grapples with her loss, listen to the audio above.</p><p><em>Meredith Zielke is a WBEZ producer. </em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 07 Mar 2014 19:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/daughter-tries-come-terms-fathers-suicide-109826 Without Means: The role of guns in suicide deaths http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/without-means-role-guns-suicide-deaths-106590 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Guns and Suicides_130409_sh.jpeg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Lindsay Van Sickle&rsquo;s dad loved to shoot. He lived on a farm and hunted as a little boy. As an adult, he spent time at the shooting range. He collected what she calls &ldquo;cowboy guns&rdquo; and loved the history behind some of his WWII firearms.</p><p>Van Sickle describes her dad as the life of the party. But he also struggled emotionally.&nbsp; In July of 2011, he took one of his guns, locked the rest of them up, left his house and shot himself at a park. He was 54. The year he died, of the 30,867 gun deaths in the U.S., 19,766 were suicides.</p><p>Van Sickle says her dad was a model of responsibility with guns.</p><p>&ldquo;At the house they were locked up in the basement. I didn&rsquo;t even know where the keys were,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Even a few of my dad&rsquo;s cousin&rsquo;s who grew up kind of like my dad, were shocked that he would take something he loved so much and use it to end his life.&rdquo;</p><p>As Van Sickle watches the news, and sees all these debates about guns, she&rsquo;s found herself wondering, what role these suicides play in the debate.</p><p>&ldquo;When something like this happens, you can&rsquo;t help but wonder about the what if. If laws were different, if rules were different, if the outcome would be the same,&rdquo; said Van Sickle.</p><p>I posed that question, about laws and suicide, to Dr. Cathy Barber at the Harvard School of Public Health.</p><p>She says first, it&rsquo;s important to note why the method of suicide matters.</p><p>A number of years ago, Barber was helping develop a new system for the federal government called the National Violent Death Reporting system.</p><p>&ldquo;In the process of doing that, I would read through thousands of suicides, little thumbnail sketches of suicides,&rdquo; Barber recalled.</p><p>Barber was surprised at how many of the suicides seemed impulsive. Barber, like many others, assumed that suicide is something people plan. In another study, people who almost died in a suicide were asked how long after they decided to attempt suicide did they actually try it. Twenty-four percent said under 5 min. Two-thirds said under an hour. Only 16 percent said a day or more.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;d think this is such a huge decision, you&rsquo;d think it would be a more deliberative one,&rdquo; said Barber.</p><p>This matters because even though people may have long battles with depression, the window of time in which they actually want to attempt suicide is small. And many people who survived suicide attempts, never go on to try again.</p><p>So Barber, came to a simple conclusion. What mattered in that tiny window was the instrument available to the person wanting to commit suicide.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a huge difference across methods of suicide in how likely they are to actually kill. Firearms are actually at the top of the heap.&rdquo;</p><p><br />Suicide attempts with a gun, result in death 85 percent of the time. Poisoning, for example, only results in death 2 percent of the time.</p><p>State suicide statistics illustrate this as well.&nbsp; Eastern states, like Massachusetts have a much lower rate of suicide death than Western states like Wyoming. They don&rsquo;t vary much in depression rates or even suicide attempts.The biggest difference is the number of guns in each state.</p><p>This has gotten some public health workers thinking about a method called &ldquo;means restriction.&rdquo;</p><p>The term comes from the U.K., where gas&mdash;sticking your head in the oven&mdash;was once a leading means of suicide.</p><p>&ldquo;Back in the 1960s, they started replacing the source of gas with a non-toxic source, and suddenly suicides in Great Britain went down by a third,&rdquo; Barber said. &ldquo;And so that&rsquo;s when we started realizing means restriction actually can save lives.&rdquo;</p><p>But of course, &ldquo;means restriction&rdquo; with guns in the U.S. is not as simple.</p><p>Gun control usually focuses on homicide. Even laws like waiting periods, or background checks, haven&rsquo;t really been shown to help. That&rsquo;s because people usually don&rsquo;t go out and buy a gun for a suicide.</p><p>What matters is having a gun around. And no one is proposing laws that would get guns out of homes all together.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t see it as being in line what the courts have decided about second amendment rights,&rdquo; said Barber.&nbsp; &ldquo;I mean people can have their opinions about this, but personally, my interest is looking at this and saying &lsquo;how do we save lives right now.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>So Barber&rsquo;s approach is a public health one. Her project based at Harvard School of Public Health is called Means Matters. She encourages programs that work with, not against gun owners. For example, a New Hampshire project trains gun shop owners in suicide prevention.&nbsp; In addition to learning about how to lock up and store a gun, gun purchasers learn about how to keep guns away from suicidal individuals. They also receive resources for mental health support.</p><p>But the politicized debates over gun laws sometimes spill over to these public health approaches too. Dr.&nbsp; Joseph O&#39;Neil used to work as a family doctor. At appointments, he asked about general safety concerns.</p><p>&ldquo;When I was talking about car seats, when I was talking about seatbelt use, I often asked families if there was a firearm in the house. And I had several families take exception to that.&rdquo;</p><p>Some patients were so upset, that he would ask what they considered a personal, non-medical question, that they switched doctors.</p><p>But O&#39;Neill didn&rsquo;t stop. In fact, he expanded his efforts. He became part of the Indiana Violent Death Prevention Project. One of the organizations projects was training clergy in suicide intervention.</p><p>Over a third of clergy members, said they had actually lost someone in their congregation to suicide. The training helped them counsel potentially suicidal individuals.</p><p>&ldquo;Clergy felt more empowered to say by the way I know you feel this way. Is there a gun in the home, would you be willing to get it out of the house,&rdquo; said O&rsquo;Neill.</p><p>But they never got to see how well it worked. Their funding, from the Joyce Foundation, the same private foundation that supports this series, ran out. Other funding for firearm injury research is scarce.</p><p>The Center for Disease Control funds research on causes of death and injury. But since 1996, most of their research on firearms was restricted by congress, who was pressured by the NRA.</p><p>Another problem: The Consumer Product Safety Commision, which regulates household products like toys or cars, doesn&rsquo;t oversee firearms.</p><p>O&#39;Neil said there just isn&rsquo;t the same oversight or information on guns. &ldquo;Since 1975, we&rsquo;ve reduced the number of infants killed in motor vehicle accidents by 75%. For toddlers, 50%. I wish we could do that for firearm injuries.&rdquo;</p><p>But without the research dollars and oversight, he thinks they won&rsquo;t. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s sort of like going without a compass. We don&rsquo;t know where we&rsquo;ve been and we don&rsquo;t know where we are going unless we have the data.&rdquo;</p><p>Both Dr. O&#39;neill and Dr. Barber say that the current political battles over guns are a catch 22. It brings more attention to their issue.&nbsp; But it makes any mention of guns so contentious their work becomes political. And it&rsquo;s hard to talk to gun owners-- the very people most at risk of gun suicides-- without coming across as anti-gun.</p><p>As for Lindsay Van Sickle, the experience of actually losing someone to a firearms suicide has changed the way she feels.</p><p>&ldquo;If you have a gun, even if it&rsquo;s for hunting or protection, there may come a time in your life that you may be depressed. And that may be a means to take your life. So I am definitely more nervous and scared about guns now based on what my dad did to himself.&rdquo;</p><p>She doesn&#39;t&rsquo; know if any policies or programs could have changed what happened to her father. But she does think, at the very least, it&rsquo;s worth us asking the question.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/shannon_h" target="_blank">@shannon_h</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 10 Apr 2013 14:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/without-means-role-guns-suicide-deaths-106590 After Aaron http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/after-aaron-104940 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/aaron%20swartz%20flickr%20sage%20ross.jpg" style="height: 496px; width: 620px;" title="Aaron Swartz (Flickr/Sage Ross)" /></div><p>I am still wearing my best black wool dress. I am drained from crying, and from staying awake late last night reading tributes online. I am thinking about what it means to be a suicide survivor. I have just been to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-born-internet-activist-aaron-swartz-dies-26-104883">Aaron Swartz&rsquo;s funeral</a>.</p><p>I have known Aaron&rsquo;s partner, Taren, for 12 years. We share a mutual best friend &ndash; mine from high school, hers from college. In the time I&rsquo;ve known Taren we have been bridesmaids together in two different weddings. We have traveled together, confided in one another and offered one another advice. I know that in losing Aaron Swartz the world lost a great visionary, a public intellectual, and a technological pioneer. I know his death and the controversy surrounding it have become an international news story. But ever since I learned of Aaron&rsquo;s death I have been looking at this tragedy through the lens of my friend&rsquo;s deep personal loss.</p><p>According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention some 34,000 people die by suicide every year in the U.S. But that number is dwarfed by the number of &ldquo;survivors,&rdquo; the devastated friends, family and loved ones suicide leaves behind.</p><p>In their grief, survivors experience shock and depression, understandably, but also anger, sometimes even anger towards the deceased. There is also guilt: the sense they could or should have done more before it was too late.</p><p>I saw those emotions unfurled at Aaron&rsquo;s funeral. The service took place in a small synagogue in Highland Park, Ill., a suburb north of Chicago. There were no flowers, but no protestors either, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/15/westboro-baptist-church-aaron-swartz-anonymous_n_2479019.html">despite earlier threats from the Westboro Baptist Church</a>. Aaron&rsquo;s body lay in a wooden casket outside the sanctuary. Jewish law dictates that the body of the deceased not be alone for an instant before he is buried, so a dedicated mourner sat in a folding chair beside the coffin and prayed over Aaron while mourners filed into the hall.</p><p>Taren delivered the first eulogy, staring from the podium into a sea of dark suits. She looked spent and wan; her large eyes were ringed with dark circles and her hair hung down in a curtain beside her face. But she laughed as she recounted how she and Aaron had shared a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of mac n&rsquo; cheese &ndash; his favorites &ndash; at a happy hour in New York the night before his death. How he had promised to reward the diligent cleaning of her inbox with one cuddle for every email deleted, how he had woken her up one Saturday morning, imploring, &ldquo;I need to talk to you about Bayesian statistics.&rdquo;</p><p>OK, she had said that day, but could she wake up a little bit first? No, he insisted. This was very important. They spent the next several hours working out a complex mathematical equation, &ldquo;trying to remember how to do multivariable calculus,&rdquo; and, it seemed from her account, feeling very lucky to have one another.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;That is what Aaron meant to me,&rdquo; Taren said. &ldquo;These simple moments of joy.&rdquo;</p><p>But Taren shared other memories, too: how tired Aaron seemed in recent weeks, how overwhelmed and helpless he felt. She and Aaron&rsquo;s other friends and mentors &ndash; including Tim Berners-Lee, the godfather of the World Wide Web, and copyright activist Lawrence Lessig &ndash; painted a picture of a remarkable young man, but also a very vulnerable one. In their memorials, Aaron did not come across as depressed &ndash; just backed into a corner. Aaron, it seems, was surrounded by people who adored him, and yet he felt alone. Even the people closest to him did not realize just how alone he felt.</p><p>Aaron&rsquo;s father, Robert, has already been quoted today saying that his son &ldquo;didn&rsquo;t commit suicide,&rdquo; that MIT and the government were responsible for his death. But Mr. Swartz also said he blamed himself for not doing enough to protect his son.</p><p>Aaron&rsquo;s defense attorney, Elliot Peters, admitted to feeling &ldquo;disappointed&rdquo; in Aaron. But he also seemed angry that he wouldn&rsquo;t have the chance to defend Aaron in court, and spun out his never-to-be-realized fantasy: that day when a jury would have found Aaron not guilty, and they would have been able to &ldquo;get the last word.&rdquo;</p><p>Lessig, Aaron&rsquo;s long-time friend and mentor, prepared a memorial slideshow that &ldquo;only [he] and Aaron would ever get to see,&rdquo; and told mourners they had &ldquo;lost an elder&rdquo; this week, someone wise beyond his years. But Lessig followed that by saying they had also &ldquo;lost a child,&rdquo; one who desperately needed to be protected.</p><p>They are all survivors now, searching for answers and casting blame, whether on themselves or on others. Let us be kind to them, and comfort them, and protect them however we can -- just as they have asked us to do a better job of protecting other people in pain. Let us offer <a href="http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage&amp;page_ID=FED822A2-D88D-4DBD-6E1B55D56C229A75">the advice given here</a>: Be kind to yourself. When you feel ready, begin to go on with your life. Eventually starting to enjoy life again is not a betrayal of your loved one, but rather a sign that you&#39;ve begun to heal.</p><p>Towards the end of the service, a young girl walked up to Taren and put her arms around her neck. It was Ada, the daughter of Aaron&rsquo;s ex-girlfriend <a href="http://www.quinnnorton.com/said/">Quinn Norton</a>. Norton <a href="http://www.quinnnorton.com/said/?p=644">wrote about her relationship with Aaron</a>, and of his love for Ada, the day after his death. &ldquo;In his darkest moments, when I couldn&rsquo;t reach him, Ada could still touch him, even if only for a moment,&rdquo; she wrote. &nbsp;</p><p>Taren must have known, because she too seemed immensely grateful for the girl&rsquo;s affection. She crisscrossed her arms around Ada. She rested her forehead on the girl&rsquo;s. And her body shook with sobs as the rabbi delivered his closing prayer.&nbsp;</p><p><em>If you&rsquo;re having thoughts of suicide please speak to someone. In the U.S. call 1-800-273-8255.</em></p></p> Tue, 15 Jan 2013 17:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/after-aaron-104940 Are the terrible things we say online only terrible in repetition? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-10/are-terrible-things-we-say-online-only-terrible-repetition-103231 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fox%20news.jpg" style="float: right; height: 268px; width: 300px; " title="(Screenshot via Gawker)" />&ldquo;You know, you wait for the end of these things, and then you worry about how they may end,&rdquo;<a href="http://observer.com/2012/09/breaking-fox-news-airs-live-suicide-of-carjacker-video/"> said FOX News&#39; Shepard Smith </a>as the network chose to air a clip of a carjacker committing suicide by shooting himself in the head. Smith quickly apologized for the choice, saying, &quot;And we really messed up. And we&#39;re all very sorry. That didn&#39;t belong on TV.&quot;</p><p>The incident inspired writer <a href="http://ourmaninchicago.net">Scott Smith</a>. At a special <em>Paper Machete</em> at the Green Mill, he mused: &quot;Maybe, in an unexpected way, there isn&rsquo;t any harm in Gawker or Buzzfeed airing a clip of a guy killing himself when in our current media landscape these incidents aren&#39;t really worth the import they&rsquo;re given. They only seem that way because they&#39;re everywhere now. Something isn&rsquo;t just said, it&rsquo;s retweeted, maybe hundreds of times, and that amplification gives it an undeserved status as a topic worth discussing. And then a week later we wonder why we were so mad.&quot;</p><p>Read an excerpt or listen below:</p><p><em>Does it seem weird to anyone else that we&rsquo;re no longer talking about how the highest-rated cable news channel in America broadcast a live suicide?</em></p><p><em>(It gets funnier, don&#39;t worry.) </em></p><p><em>I know, it happened over</em> two weeks ago<em> and with the speed at which news operates it&rsquo;s like I&rsquo;m pestering you about something that happened during the Taft administration. And sure, it seems like it was an honest mistake but where was . . . the processing? The part where we as a society collectively feel remorse for something like this that happens and examine How We Got Here, that part was just . . . missing. It was as if we got really sh**canned the night before but we&rsquo;re somehow able to get up the next morning and run a triathalon. All of the whippets but none of the headache. Whatever concerns we might have had about how our insatiable thirst for destructive acts led us&nbsp;</em><em>&mdash;</em><em>&nbsp;even inadvertently</em><em>&nbsp;</em><em>&mdash;&nbsp;</em><em>to witness a live suicide were gone once the next episode of </em>Here Comes Honey Boo Boo<em> aired. (Because if that&rsquo;s not a show about people killing themselves</em><em>&nbsp;</em><em>&mdash;</em><em>&nbsp;albeit very, very slowly</em><em>&nbsp;</em><em>&mdash;&nbsp;</em><em>I don&rsquo;t know what is.) </em></p><p><em>I had my thinking on this retroactively confirmed when I went back and read <a href="http://gawker.com/5947440">a post Gawker&rsquo;s Hamilton Nolan wrote</a> about how terrible it was that Fox News was running live car chases in the first place, and how they were &ldquo;mayhem porn&rdquo; and what did they expect would happen? Of course, all of this would have had more impact <a href="http://gawker.com/5947427/fox-just-aired-a-live-broadcast-of-a-car-chase-that-ended-with-a-suicide">if Gawker hadn&rsquo;t posted</a> the unedited suicide clip itself some 45 minutes before. <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/09/05/804051/clinton-medicare-ryan-lies/">As the Big Dog says</a>, it takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did. Nolan&rsquo;s justification for airing the clip was as follows &ldquo;When we heard that Fox News had aired a suicide, what was the first thing we all did? Search on the internet for the clip. The clip is news.&rdquo; </em></p><p><em>I invite all of you to review your own Internet search history to determine what </em>you <em>think of as news. </em></p><p><em>(You thought about it, didn&#39;t you?)</em></p><p><em>Gawker&rsquo;s misunderstanding is really very simple: The news is not that this suicide happened</em><em>&nbsp;</em><em>&mdash;&nbsp;</em><em>as Gawker pointed out, an unhappy ending to a car chase is almost the point of airing it in the first place. No, the news is the context in which it occurred. But that&rsquo;s the part of this story that&rsquo;s missing on Gawker, Buzzfeed and almost everywhere else that posted just the clip under the guise of news. What made the clip newsworthy wasn&rsquo;t the event itself but that it violated a standard Fox News had set (which, I know,&quot;Fox has standards,&rdquo; LOL!).</em></p><p><a href="http://thepapermacheteshow.com/" target="_blank">The Paper Machete</a>&nbsp;<em>is a weekly live magazine at the Horseshoe in North Center. It&#39;s always at 3 pm., it&#39;s always on Saturday, and it&#39;s always free. Get all your</em>&nbsp;The Paper Machete Radio Magazine<em>&nbsp;needs filled&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/paper-machete" target="_blank">here</a>, or download the podcast from iTunes&nbsp;<a href="http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-paper-machete-radio-magazine/id450280345" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 18 Oct 2012 10:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-10/are-terrible-things-we-say-online-only-terrible-repetition-103231 NFL sued over suicide of former Bears player http://www.wbez.org/story/nfl-sued-over-suicide-former-bears-player-96677 <p><p>Family members of Dave Duerson, a former Chicago Bears player, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL. Duerson played safety for the Bears in the 1980s, including the Bears Super Bowl-winning season. He committed suicide last year.</p><p>Now his family is suing because they say Duerson was depressed, caused by head trauma suffered during his professional football career.</p><p>"If the NFL did something for Dave Duerson during his retirement rather than provide him with false information, he likely would not have committed suicide," said William T. Gibbs, an attorney representing Duerson’s family.</p><p>The lawsuit alleges the NFL knew about the harmful effects of poorly managed concussions.</p><p>"The NFL sets up a committee to say there’s no way that there could be later in life cognitive or mental health issues as a result of repetitive head trauma in the face of hundreds of articles saying exactly the opposite," said Gibbs.</p><p>Attorneys said that during Duerson's 11-year career in the NFL he sustained at least three documented concussive brain traumas and numerous unreported concussions.</p><p>Researchers at Boston University determined from postmortem analysis of Duerson's brain that he suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated brain trauma.</p><p>The NFL said in a statement it hasn't yet seen the lawsuit. Riddell Sports Group is also named in the lawsuit, which claims the company failed to warn that its helmets would not prevent concussion-caused CTE.</p></p> Thu, 23 Feb 2012 23:51:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/nfl-sued-over-suicide-former-bears-player-96677 Study finds antidepressant does not increase risk of suicide for kids http://www.wbez.org/story/study-finds-antidepressant-does-not-increase-risk-suicide-kids-96165 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-07/Prozac tablets.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>New research by Chicago scientists suggests using antidepressant drugs does not increase suicidal thoughts and behavior in kids, which contradicts warnings by government regulators.</p><p>In 2004 the Food and Drug Administration alerted the public that the drugs, intended to reduce depression, can actually make children more likely to think about or attempt suicide.</p><p>But a new study out Monday found no evidence of that risk. The study examined 708 children, plus thousands more adults, using an unprecedented level of detail. Researchers found, in fact, that the drug fluoxetine, marketed as Prozac, doesn’t seem to affect suicidal behavior in children either way. The drug did appear to improve kids’ depression symptoms.&nbsp;</p><p>Lead author Robert Gibbons, a professor of medicine, health studies and biostatistics at University of Chicago Medicine, says that suggests depression and suicide work differently in kids than in adults.</p><p>“Unlike adults where it seems depression and suicidal thoughts and behavior are very tightly linked, that doesn’t seem to be the case as much in children,” Gibbons said. “Apparently there are children whose depression can be treated, but their suicidal risk remains high.”</p><p>The FDA puts a high-profile “black box” warning on many antidepressants, cautioning that drugs may increase the risk of suicidal behavior in children. Mina Dulcan, head of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, says that warning was always based on weak evidence. She welcomed the new study, which she said offered a sophisticated analysis of the problem.</p><p>The findings are published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.</p><p><em>Note: This story has been updated to correct the author's name. </em></p></p> Mon, 06 Feb 2012 22:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/study-finds-antidepressant-does-not-increase-risk-suicide-kids-96165 Suicides in China-controlled Tibet continue to rise http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-02/suicides-china-controlled-tibet-continue-rise-96055 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-February/2012-02-02/tibet2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In recent months, a number of Tibetans have set themselves on fire in public to protest Chinese rule. Photos and videos circulated online show a startling scene: onlookers cheer as another life is sacrificed in a show of resistance against China.</p><p>Though the self-immolations aren’t new, they are rising steadily and spreading to more areas. Meanwhile, China is scrambling to tighten its grip on the parts of Tibet where these self immolations have occurred.</p><p><em>Worldview</em> talks to Tenzin Jamyang, a local Tibetan, to help make sense of the unraveling situation.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Note: In this interview, our guest incorrectly states the meeting time of an upcoming protest. The Tibetan Alliance plans to gather at 11AM, not 8AM, on February 8 at the Water Tower in Chicago.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p style="margin-left: 1in;">&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 02 Feb 2012 17:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-02/suicides-china-controlled-tibet-continue-rise-96055 Delayed by months, suicide-proof beds still not in suicide-watch cells at youth prison http://www.wbez.org/story/delayed-months-suicide-proof-beds-still-not-suicide-watch-cells-youth-prison-94992 <p><p>An Illinois youth prison still does not have suicide-proof beds in rooms where kids on suicide watch are held. The installation has been plagued by delays.</p><div><p>Illinois' Department of Juvenile Justice had <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/youth-prisons-suicide-watch-cells-still-lack-suicide-proof-beds-91805">"anticipate[d]"</a> suicide-proof furniture would be installed at all its facilities by the end of 2011.&nbsp;That date's now been pushed to late February 2012, because, the department said last week, it took longer than expected to customize the furniture.</p><p>Particularly striking: At the St. Charles facility, the cells where kids go when they're put on suicide watch still do not have the specially designed "safety beds."</p><p>"While they do not have the new furniture installed, those rooms do not have the...bunk-bed style beds that were the great risk for suicide," said Kendall Marlow, a department spokesman. "That - combined with the fact that that room is monitored once every 5 minutes - mitigates the risk."</p><p>Prison watchdog <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/no-suicide-proof-beds-kids-suicide-cells-88902">the John Howard Association</a> five months ago called it "absolutely unacceptable" that those rooms still lacked suicide proof furniture.</p><p>The issue took on <a href="http://insideandout.chicagopublicradio.org/content/illinois-youth-prisons-see-more-suicide-attempts">extra weight</a> following a suicide at the St. Charles prison in 2009.</p></div></p> Mon, 19 Dec 2011 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/delayed-months-suicide-proof-beds-still-not-suicide-watch-cells-youth-prison-94992