Health Healthcare THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Too Sad to Move: On the Paralysis of Depression

On my honeymoon we hiked a glacier at the border of Argentina and Chile, about as far south as you could go before hitting Antarctica. No organic life moved. Neon blue water faded to the shore into a milky hue due to particles of ice. The shore was rock, the redbrown of a lion. The glacier sliced in white sections shot with the same chemical blue as the waters. The guide said the blue came from the sun. When ice gets super cold and dense, light refracts off it differently; the color shows more intense. We slipped and climbed in our rented spiked shoes and caught panoramas of water and rock and air. It was like no sensory experience I’ve had, save staring into a canvas — pure color, something by Gerhard Richter, maybe. Occasionally we’d meet a blue sliver in the ice plunging more than a mile. The guide told us to beware; if we tumbled to the bottom we might not die, but we’d break every bone, lie in pain until they somehow got us out.

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A bedrock of pain linked us, so this caught our attention. By then we’d developed a game, my husband and I, that we called: “Should we just kill ourselves?” It involved saying the phrase, then pondering the question. (The rules were unstated but understood.) We played when faced with a task that felt insurmountable, some paralysis, due to career, or other people, or family. Paralysis was something I felt I would live with always. My first therapist couldn’t figure it out, met with silence my description of sitting on the couch unable to move, circles of thought moving me instead, arguments against living. I’d found her after calling my dad, after considering walking into traffic with a seriousness that was new. No one we knew from India or with roots there had a therapist, at least not openly; but my dad was a pragmatist, and we didn’t need more death. The smell of my mom’s cremation was still in my nose, every word still in my head from the letter I slipped under her bathroom door a few days before she fell from a stroke that came like a surprise wave — blaming her for the hands that touched me when only hers should have, for denying me when I asked for therapy years later.

Now she was dead and I worried she didn’t know that I also didn’t blame her, that I loved her. I went to an old escape fantasy, first shared at the office of my pediatrician in Texas, who laughed when I asked for a pill that could turn me back to a baby. Some darkness always lay in wait to get me and I felt I couldn’t stand it — kids laughing in the shadows, or grown-ups who hated me, or, always, hands. I imagined the whole world sharpened to a point against me, a vision helped along by the many times people would stare: when I walked into a classroom, the only brown kid; when we entered a gas station on a road trip. Some years later a girl around my age, seven or eight, shot herself with a gun in the bathroom of her fancy prep school nearby. I was transfixed by the story, couldn’t stop thinking of a girl my age being so decisive while I stayed wishy-washy. I contemplated the knives in our kitchen, asked my mom what she’d think of a girl my age going that way, covered my tracks by saying I’d heard of such a happening. She said she’d think the girl was sick. I didn’t want her to think badly of me, so that was that.

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I don’t know where the urge to kill oneself comes from, if some of us have it and some of us don’t. My mom didn’t seem to have it. She had no hair or ability to walk or talk, and still she raised her arms every day to exercise them, on the hope she would get strong enough to live through surgery to remove the tumors that caused the stroke, a cancer growing in hiding until it made itself known by wrecking her in a second. Watching her I felt awed, and confused. If it’s not a kitchen knife that gets you it’s a rotting hole in your belly from the feeding tube, physical pain if not emotional. At amusement parks, I’d get to the end of the line and turn around, bow out, push through all the people to exit the experiment. I knew I’d never fight as my mom had, given the chance to die. Why waste time along the way?

Biology tells me I’m programmed to want to live. So many sperm could have made their way to the egg. Clearly the one that did had will, a survival instinct, expressed years later in my dad insisting I live by securing outside help. That day on the ice, my husband and I considered dying, but only because the glacier was more beautiful than anywhere else we could go. Better to die there, we reasoned, than return to a place of paralysis. I’ve found it helps to physically move, the way stretching can stave off the stiffening of joints that comes with another sort of disease. But healthcare is expensive in this country, people too busy to talk on phones, therapy treated as a luxury good. I do not know what one does without a biological proxy for the survival instinct, engaging your will to live when it is lost to you, who calls the numbers, writes the checks, lifts your arms in exercises when you can’t move.

If you or someone you love is in need of help, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. It is free, operates 24-7, and provides confidential support for people in crisis.


Fed Pursuit of Hacktivist Aaron Swartz vs. Pursuit of Big Banks Highlights Tragic Imbalance

The theft of a few million articles from academic journals can carry a sentence of 35 years in prison.

Meanwhile, big banks can rig interest rates affecting the entire global economic system, launder money for international drug cartels, illegally foreclose on the homes of millions of Americans, and ultimately walk away with a slap-on-the-wrist for endangering the economic well-being of entire countries and hemispheres.

The family of internet activist and Reddit Co-founder Aaron Swartz, who was found dead in his Crown Heights apartment in Brooklyn on Friday, partially blames the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office for the apparent suicide.

“The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims,” the family said in a statement this weekend. “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial [sic] overreach. ”

Take a step back for a minute and really think about the level of imbalance and hypocrisy we’re witnessing here. Federal authorities pursued, down to the last letter of the law, a guy whose life-long mission it was to promote the open flow of information in cyber-space and society at-large.

Swartz’s impending piracy trial threatened to shatter his entire existence. He faced 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine for allegedly downloading nearly 5 million articles from the non-profit digital library database, JSTOR, via Massachusetts Institute of Technology computers.

It’s understandable that not everyone will condone some of the methods Swartz used to promote his vision of an open internet, others might even agree that his actions at MIT justifiably warranted legal action.

But, no one can logically argue that Swartz deserved to face such serious prosecution — not in light of the relatively menial punishments given to big banks in recent months for their involvement in scandals of infinitely more heinous proportions than the piracy of academic journals.

Last Monday, 10 banks including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and MetLife Bank settled with the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for a combined $8.5 billion for engaging in shady loan practices.

The banks were accused of instituting a practice called “robo-signing,” where they would sign off on the foreclosure of homes that they couldn’t actually prove they owned mortgages for. For criminal practices that affected millions upon million of Americans, the feds granted the banks and their executives immunity from criminal prosecution.

In December we reported on the $1.9 billion settlement that HSBC Bank reached with federal authorities, for its involvement in the laundering of at least $800 million in Mexican drug cartel money and sanctioned Iranian money.

This involves the same illicit drug trade that we’re supposedly waging war against and the same Iran that our government has imposed economic sanctions on and courted conflict with for years. For its involvement in ridiculously criminal activity, the feds granted the bank and its executives immunity from criminal prosecution.

And, in perhaps the greatest financial scandal in modern history, UBS Bank and Barclays Bank settled with U.S. and British authorities over their involvement in the Libor rate-fixing scandal. UBS and Barclays were a part of a larger group of banks responsible for setting global interest rates based on the interest rate the banks used to borrow from one another.

The group of banks knowingly fixed rates which didn’t accurately reflect the actual interest rate in order to generate greater profits. Barclays settled with U.S. and British authorities for more than $400 million in June and UBS settled for $1.5 billion towards the end of December. For their very blatant misdeeds, authorities granted the banks and its executives immunity from criminal prosecution.

In contrast to standard dealings with the big banks, the feds decided to push for the conviction of Swartz despite the fact that JSTOR, the actual victim of the crime here — if there truly is one, asked that the charges be dropped.

“[JSTOR] declined to pursue their own action against Aaron, and they asked the government to drop its [pursuit],” Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard University professor and friend of Swartz, wrote on his blog. “MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear, and so the prosecutor had the excuse he needed to continue his war against the ‘criminal’ who we who loved him knew as Aaron.”

MIT has since released a statement to investigate any role it may have had in motivating the suicide. Lessig, whom Swartz helped build intellectual licensing website Creative Commons, also pointed out the glaring imbalance in what our government chooses to pursue and not pursue.

“We live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House,” he wrote. “And, where even those brought to ‘justice’ never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled ‘felons.'”


Should New York Bullies Face Criminal Charges?

As the story now goes, 15-year-old Felicia Garcia threw herself in front of a train in Staten Island as dozens of horrified students watched on Wednesday afternoon after getting tormented by several members of her high school’s football team.

The alleged bullying followed a weekend party, at which she reportedly had sex with four football players at the same time.

Friends of the Staten Island teen tell multiple media outlets that the bullying by members of the football team was brutal — online, at school, and at the train station just before she decided to take her own life; the bullies apparently were relentless.

Outraged New Yorkers are now calling for justice — they want the bullies punished. Problem is, legally, no such punishment is available — despite Governor Andrew Cuomo signing a “cyber-bullying” bill into law earlier this year.

As we noted at the time, the bill the governor signed does little to actually prevent punks from bullying their classmates. And no law currently exists in New York that punishes people for being bullies (however, according to a July 2012, review of each state’s bullying laws, a law including criminal sanctions for convicted bullies has been proposed in the Empire State).

The bill Cuomo signed basically requires sensitivity training for bullies. The new law calls for the following:

-Requires that schools act in cases of cyberbullying:

The law requires that schools act in cases of cyberbullying, which may occur on or off campus, when it creates or would create a substantial risk to the school environment, substantially interferes with a student’s educational performance or mental, emotional or physical well-being, or causes a student to fear for his or her physical safety.

-Ensures Proper Protocols Are in Place to Deal with Cyberbullying

The law requires school districts to put in place protocols to deal with cyberbullying, harassment, bullying and discrimination, including assignment of a school official to receive and investigate reports; prompt reporting and investigation; responsive actions to prevent recurrence of any verified bullying; coordination with law enforcement when appropriate; development of a bullying prevention strategy; and notice to all school community members of the school’s policies.

-Sets Training Requirements For School Employees to Help Identify and Prevent Cyberbullying

The law sets training requirements for current school employees, as well as for new teachers and administrators applying for a certificate or license, on the identification and mitigation of harassment, bullying, cyberbullying and discrimination.

The law is pretty heavy on education and awareness, and pretty light on punishing the creeps who pick on kids over the Internet. Any talk of punishment in the law is vague; schools must “act in cases of cyberbullying?” That could mean pretty much anything — even something as minimal as an apology.

That said, the argument exists that bullies don’t physically push someone into a train, or off a bridge, or cause a person to harm themselves. Therefore, the bully isn’t physically responsible for someone’s death if they decide to take their own life.

That logic is part of the reason why only 12 states have laws in place that include criminal sanctions for bullying.


Bullied Staten Island Teen Throws Herself in Front of Train As Friends Watched

“I can’t. I’m done. I give up.”

That’s what a bullied Staten Island teen posted on Twitter on Monday. Yesterday, 15-year-old Felicia Garcia jumped in front of a train as classmates watched. She was taken to a Staten Island University Hospital, where she died.

About 3:15 p.m. yesterday, Garcia and dozens of her classmates at Totternville High School were waiting at the Huguenot Staten Island Railway station platform when Garcia reportedly broke away from the group and threw herself in front of an oncoming train.

“She got bullied in the school, especially by the football players,
because she looked different and had piercings,” senior Amanda
Liquori tells the New York Post.

“She wouldn’t have done it if she wasn’t bullied,” another friend, Alissa
Compitello, wrote on Twitter. “All this girl wanted was to be left
alone. And nobody could do that for her.”

Garcia was a foster child.

friend, Gabriella Leone, whose younger sister was there when Garcia
jumped in front of the train, tells the Post that the girl “had a
terrible life on top of all
the heartache — bullies at school taunted her and spread rumors. I hope
all bullies get punished!”


Letters From The Hole: Suicide In Solitary Confinement

The New York Civil Liberties Union recently released a report outlining the “inhumane, arbitrary use of solitary confinement” in New York state prisons.

Included in the report are handwritten letters from several inmates placed in segregated housing (solitary confinement) for various — in many cases non-violent — reasons. The letters describe what life is like for those locked in a cage for 23 hours a day.

The Voice will be publishing several of the letters in a series called Letters From the Hole.

Today’s inmate: An inmate identified only as “Mr. Diaz” was in solitary confinement at Upstate Correctional Facility when he took his own life. Diaz, according to two other inmates, didn’t speak English and the prison didn’t provide him with a translator — he was unable to ask for mental health services. The inmates wrote letters to prison officials on Diaz’s behalf requesting help for their fellow inmate. Help never came, and Diaz committed suicide on May 21.

See the letters below.


Diaz Suicide 1 Redacted

Diaz Suicide 2 Redacted


Letters From The Hole: Inmate Denied Mental Health Treatment For Nine Months. Then He Attempted Suicide

The New
York Civil Liberties Union recently released a report outlining the 
“inhumane, arbitrary use of solitary confinement” in New York state

Included in the report are handwritten letters from
several inmates placed in segregated housing (solitary confinement) for
various — in many cases non-violent — reasons. The letters describe
what life is like for those locked in a cage for 23 hours a day.

The Voice will be publishing several of the letters in a series called Letters From the Hole.

Today’s inmate: Daryl is an inmate at the Upstate Correctional Facility. He kept records of the multiple requests for mental health treatment he made while in extreme isolation. His requests, he says, were ignore for nine months. Then he tried to kill himself. See his letter below.


Daryl Redacted


Fox News Accidentally Shows Man Blow His Brains Out On National Television (NSFW)

There was a car-jacking in Phoenix, Arizona this afternoon that resulted in a more than hour-long police chase. And it didn’t end well; the suspect blew his brains out — and Fox News accidentally aired the apparent suicide live on national television at 3:30 in the afternoon.

Buzzfeed was quick to post video of the newsroom SNAFU on its website.

The shooting was followed by a lengthy apology from host Shepard Smith (which isn’t shown in the Buzzfeed video), who ended the broadcast noticeably annoyed.

See the video below — it’s tough to watch and definitely NSFW.



Hip-Hop Mogul Chris Lighty’s Death Deemed a Suicide

Before he was found in his Bronx apartment last Thursday dead with a head gun wound, Chris Lighty was the force behind some of hip-hop’s greatest acts in the past twenty years. From Diddy to 50 Cent, Lighty helped manage the no-names that became icons, pushing hip-hop into its permanent spot in the mainstream.

So, when the music industry received news of his death this past week, mourning extended across genres.

However, behind the fame and fortune, the owner of Violator Record’s life ran a darker path; with a divorce in process and accumulated financial problems (some $300,000 owed to the IRS, according to the Daily News), medical officials believe that the hip-hop mogul was severely depressed, thus leading them to believe that his gun wound was self-inflicted.
When the story hit the press on Thursday, many believed that the death came after a fight between Chris and his wife, Veronica, who was about to move out of his house in South Riverdale. But details of whether or not they were fighting that day are vague; now, with these financial facts in mind, the events on that fateful day in Lighty’s life might have been spawned from a different motive.
At the scene, cops found a black handgun near his body, presumably belonging to Lighty, but no note was found. But, now, it may be impossible to find out what caused the man’s death for sure.
Norman Downes, a friend of the family who spoke on behalf of Veronica, told reporters that “the only person who really knows [what happened] was Christ and he ain’t here.”
Lighty was 44.

New Jersey Mom Decapitates Baby Before Fatally Slicing Own Throat

Here’s a pretty gruesome horror story for a Thursday morning:

Police in Camden, New Jersey found the body of Chevonne Thomas in the townhouse she shared with her 2-year-old son. Thomas apparently stabbed herself in the neck — but only after decapitating her son, whose body also was found in the home.

The kicker: Thomas had just regained custody of the boy five months ago, after New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families had removed 2-year-old Zahree Thomas from his mother’s care when she got busted smoking PCP in a park and leaving him unattended in a car.

The 2010 drug charges against Thomas ultimately were dropped because of a problem with a witness — but the boy remained in DCF custody.

Prior to slicing her own throat, Thomas called 9-1-1 to report that she’d murdered her son — and let authorities know that she takes the antidepressant drug Prozac.

“I didn’t take it today, but I should have,” she told a dispatcher in a recording of the incoherent rant released last night.

Initially, Thomas blamed her son’s murder on a boyfriend, but came clean before police arrived at her home to find the gruesome scene.

“You know what, I did it, I’m lying, I’m lying, I’m lying, I did it,” she told dispatchers.

The DCF says in a statement that it had been working with Thomas since giving her back custody of her son, and had been providing her with “extensive” support and counseling.

Regardless, the agency is now catching some heat over the dead 2-year-old that it returned to his clearly unfit mother.


Here’s An Interview With Tyler Clementi’s (Now) Gay-Friendly Parents

For the first time since the man who drove their son to suicide was released from jail (after a laughable 20 days behind bars), the parents of Tyler Clementi are speaking out.

Jane and Joe Clementi, and his older brother James, sat down with NBC’s Lester Holt to talk about their son’s tragic death (Tyler, for anyone who doesn’t already know, threw himself off the George Washington Bridge after a classmate, Dharun Ravi, streamed video over the Internet of Clementi making out with another man). Turns out, the devoutly Christian (read: fagala-phobic) Clementis have since changed their tune when it comes to homosexuality being a sin.

After telling Jane Clementi he was gay just prior to his first day at Rutgers, Clementi told a friend he felt “rejected” by his uber-Christian mother, which later prompted New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser to suggest that the grieving mother is somehow to blame for her son’s death and should be prosecuted.

The Clementis now have a different — human — view of homosexuality, and even have started a foundation to help other kids Tyler’s age who are struggling with their sexuality.