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Health

100,000 people called 988 during its first week, a historic moment in suicide prevention

“The launch of 988 is a historic moment for suicide prevention and crisis care in this country.”

100,000 people called 988 during its first week, a historic moment in suicide prevention
Photo by yang miao on Unsplash

Help is available 24/7.

It used to be called getting your head shrunk. And it was for the self-obsessed or the folk who were a little bit “off.” The crazy people, right? Not for you, me or any of our co-workers or friends. Hush. Don’t talk about it.Everything’s fine

But as all of us who’ve lived through these last few years know, mental health challenges can happen to any of us. If we’ve learned anything, it’s the realization that some days (weeks, months…) are better than others—and that it’s OK to not be OK.



The days of sweeping mental health issues under the rug are gone—as they should be. Talking about the challenges is exactly what we need to do. Ironic that it took a pandemic to throw the door to the discussion around mental health wide open, helping us to see it as a necessary and normal part of taking care of ourselves.



The CDC provides a helpful list of facts for people about suicide and prevention.

cdc.gov

America is facing an unprecedented crisis in mental health, with suicide rates higher than any other wealthy nation. The CDC ranks suicide in the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. for people ages 10–64, and the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 25-34.

In 2020, 45,979 Americans died from suicide—that’s one death every 11 minutes. That figure—shocking enough as it is—hides the broader picture: that an estimated 12.2 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million planned a suicide attempt and 1.2 million made an attempt. Those are difficult numbers to ignore.

There are a glimmers of hope, however, and among public health experts by far the most exciting is the rollout of the new three-digit Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

As of July 16, anyone experiencing emotional distress, a substance use crisis or having thoughts of suicide can dial or text 988 to be immediately connected to a trained suicide prevention counselor for support, understanding and connection to local resources—24/7, 365 days a year. This goes for concerned friends or family members, as well.

Awareness ribbon for the 988 lifeline.

988LifeLine.org

The lifeline routes an incoming call to one of around 200 crisis centers, matching the caller’s area code to their closest available center—to provide the most accurate recommendations to resources in a caller’s local area. Calls are confidential and a translation service can provide help in 250 languages. There are also accommodations for the deaf and hard of hearing, via a preferred telecommunications relay service or by dialing 711 then 988.

The lifeline isn’t new—it’s been around since 2005 (as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)—but its accessibility has been hindered by a difficult-to-remember 1-800 number and a less-than-snappy name. Now, the name has been shortened and the long-winded number is out. All people need to know is to dial or text 988. In a crisis, this simple change is monumental and could literally mean the difference between life and death.

“The launch of 988 is a historic moment for suicide prevention and crisis care in this country,” says Shari Sinwelski, vice president of crisis care for the Los Angeles-based Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, one of the more than 200 privately owned and operated organizations in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network and the first ever suicide prevention center to open in the U.S.

“The first day of the 988 launch, we received twice the total volume of contacts (calls, texts and chats) than normal,” Sinwelski told Upworthy.

Nationally, the 988 lifeline received 96,000 calls, texts and chats during the transition week (July 14–20). That’s a 45% increase in volume from the previous week, according to Sinwelski. And it’s a 66% increase in volume compared to the same week in 2021.

Sinwelski sees 988 as just the start of improving the way people access and receive crisis care in the U.S. “Not only do people in crisis now have an easier way to access services, but crisis centers are starting to receive the resources needed to fund these crucial services,” she says. “The hope is that in three to five years, everyone in mental health crisis will have someone to call, someone to come to and somewhere to go.”

While the most recent CDC figures for suicide rates among the general population showed a 5% decline in 2020 compared to the previous two years, tragically the suicide and suicide attempt rates have increased among children, teens and young adults.

“Students are facing unprecedented pressures and circumstances—school shootings, the pandemic and the effects of social media like cyberbullying and dangerous social challenges, in addition to the everyday pressures of school and family,” said Sinwelski. “Nationwide, 60% of teens and young people with depression cannot access care. We have to do better and do more to support our youth.”

The COVID-19 pandemic made mental health challenges so much worse, especially during the shutdown period and particularly among people with limited access to health services, communities of color and essential workers. During this time, “most people experienced anxiety, depression and symptoms of mental health challenges,” according to Sinwelski. “We each know someone affected in some way.”

Mental health challenges are not exclusive to a particular group of people born with a disorder or an addiction gene. Just look at who we’ve lost over the last several years: well-loved actors and comedians, a celebrity chef, fashion designers, rock stars, sports personalities, successful business executives … and more likely than not, a student at your kid’s school, a member of your book club, a fellow mom, dad, neighbor or respected veteran, perhaps even one of your relatives.

“We want people to know that there is help, they are not alone. To call 988 if they are in a mental health crisis, have suicidal thoughts, feel depressed and need help,” says Sinwelski. “988 is the first step in creating a fully resourced mental health crisis continuum in our country when so many Americans desperately need it.”

The digits may have changed but the message remains the same: Help is available. And there’s now an accessible, unforgettable number to call. A number that should become as familiar to Americans as 911 (and in a mental health crisis is arguably the better number to call). If you suffer from suicidal or desperate thoughts, go ahead and write 988 in lipstick on your bathroom mirror to remind you that help and hope are waiting to hear from you. Add it to your contacts list, put it in the back of your smartphone case or pin it on your fridge.

In the current climate of more awareness and understanding of mental health, healing, hope and help are happening every day, and every positive step forward in crisis intervention can literally save lives. When we’re all in it together, it’s not such a lonely place.


If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide or require mental health support, call or text 988 to talk to a trained counselor, or visit 988lifeline.org to connect with a counselor and chat in real time.

Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

The mesmerizing lost art of darning knit fabric.

For most of human history, people had to make their own clothing by hand, and sewing skills were subsequently passed down from generation to generation. Because clothing was so time-consuming and labor-intensive to make, people also had to know how to repair clothing items that got torn or damaged in some way.

The invention of sewing and knitting machines changed the way we acquire clothing, and the skills people used to possess have largely gone by the wayside. If we get a hole in a sock nowadays, we toss it and replace it. Most of us have no idea how to darn a sock or fix a hole in any knit fabric. It's far easier for us to replace than to repair.

But there are still some among us who do have the skills to repair clothing in a way that makes it look like the rip, tear or hole never happened, and to watch them do it is mesmerizing.

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Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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