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'Smiling depression' can make suicide hard to predict. Here's what you can do.

In the wake of suicide, we're often left with two questions: "Why?" and "How could this have been prevented?"

Neither have easy answers. The painful truth — as evidenced by the recent deaths of beloved public figures Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain — is that suicide is much more prevalent than many are comfortable talking about. According to statistics, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America, claiming more than 44,000 lives each year. More worryingly, a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control shows that suicide rates are on the rise — up 30% from 1999.

What's even more difficult to come to grips with is the fact that suicide isn't a monolith. We may have been taught to look for warning signs in friends and family during our high school health classes and college orientations, but warning signs are often not obvious. Nor, as the tragic deaths of Spade and Bourdain have made distressingly clear, are fame, fortune, and a life that is perceived as "good" inoculations against suicidal thoughts or actions.


If there's anything the conversation that's stemmed from these high-profile deaths has re-affirmed, it's that "suicide doesn't have a look." And while it disproportionately affects some groups — LGBTQ youth, for instance, are more at risk than their non-LGBTQ counterparts — the reality is that anyone can experience suicidal ideation.

Here's the reality: Suicide is incredibly difficult to predict. There are many reasons for that.

In a piece for Big Think, Joseph Franklin, professor of psychology at Florida State University, writes that humans love explanations that are simple and universal. Though this way of thinking is often helpful, it doesn't translate when it comes to the topic of whether someone will commit suicide. In fact, Franklin's research on the topic showed that even when taking risk factors into account, the most trained experts are no better at predicting actual suicidality than "someone with no knowledge of the patient who predicted based on a coin flip."

It would be easiest if there were incontrovertible proof that depression was the main cause of suicide, but human nature is far too complex for that. Though depression is the "leading causes of disability worldwide" according to the World Health Organization, not everyone who lives with it experiences suicidal ideation. Nor, according to experts, is depression by itself the main cause of suicide.

There are also other factors at work. Many people who live with depression may not even know that they're experiencing symptoms of the disorder. And so many people try to push through the pain of depression with atypical symptoms — where the person appears fine to others — that is now colloquially known as smiling depression. Then there's the fact that despite long-held cultural beliefs about suicide, not all people who die by suicide telegraph their intentions to others. Nor are all suicides planned. Impulsivity and access to lethal means are also important factors that must be considered.

This means that it's more important than ever to show up for the people in our lives.

Just because suicide is hard to predict now, doesn't mean it will always be. And new advances in technology — specifically machine learning — are bringing researchers closer to more reliably being able to recognize who is more at risk and when.

But that technology is still years away, which means that it's on us to reach out and take action when we notice warning signs in our friends and loved ones.

Making the public at large aware of hotlines and suicide prevention centers is important, but it's also essential that we recognize that not everyone will want to, or even know that they can, utilize these services. And the stigma that surrounds mental illness often makes it feel impossible to ask for help, no matter who you are.

The most important thing we can do is be present for those that we care about. It may feel strange to call up a friend just to check up on how they're doing, but the even the smallest amount of human contact can't be overstated.

Think about your own dark times — everyone has them: When it felt like it would be too much to even text a friend, what would it have been like to receive a message from them first, just making sure you're doing OK? Would you have considered it intrusive? Or would it have been a relief to have someone just be there?

Don't be afraid to talk — even if it's about your concern that the person you're reaching out to may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. Open and compassionate conversation about suicide doesn't lead to a higher risk. Instead, it allows the person who's struggling to name what's going on and share their feelings.  Often, that's the first step to getting help.

If you or someone you know is struggling, know that there are immediate resources available if you're in a crisis. There are many organizations to become familiar with, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255, the Crisis Text Line (text "HOME" to 741741), and the Trevor Project 866-488-7386.

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

So why does the guy who sits next to you put his phone, his book, his charger, his lunch, and his laptop in the space that's rightfully yours? It's annoying.

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Health

Doctor explains why he checks a dead patient's Facebook before notifying their parents

Louis M. Profeta MD explains why he looks at the social media accounts of dead patients before talking their parents.

Photo from Tedx Talk on YouTube.

He checks on your Facebook page.

Losing a loved one is easily the worst moment you'll face in your life. But it can also affect the doctors who have to break it to a patient's friends and family. Louis M. Profeta MD, an Emergency Physician at St. Vincent Emergency Physicians in Indianapolis, Indiana, recently took to LinkedIn to share the reason he looks at a patient's Facebook page before telling their parents they've passed.

The post, titled "I'll Look at Your Facebook Profile Before I Tell Your Mother You're Dead," has attracted thousands of likes and comments.

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Doorbell camera catches boy's rant about mom's chicken

When you're a kid you rarely have a lot of say in what you get to eat for dinner. The adult in your house is the one that gets to decide and you have to eat whatever they put on your plate. But one little boy is simply tired of eating chicken and he doesn't care who knows it. Well, he cares if his mom knows.

Lacy Marie uploaded a video from her doorbell camera to TikTok her son. The little boy is caught on camera taking the trash out venting about always having to eat chicken. He rants all the way to the trash can, being sure to get it out of his system before he makes it back into the house.

"Chicken. No more chicken. Tell me you like, we have chicken every day. Eat this, eat that, eat more chicken, keep eating it," the 10-year-old complains. "It's healthy for you. Like, we get it. We have chicken every day."

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Family

This is the best mother-daughter chat about the tampon aisle ever. Period.

A hilarious conversation about "the vagina zone" turned into an important message about patriarchy from mother to daughter.

A mother and daughter discuss period products.


Belinda Hankins and her 13-year-old daughter, Bella, seem to have a great relationship, one that is often played out over text message.

Sure they play around like most teens and parents do, but in between the joking and stealing of desserts, they're incredibly open and honest with each other. This is key, especially since Melinda is a single parent and thus is the designated teacher of "the ways of the world."

But, wow, she is a champ at doing just that in the chillest way possible. Of course, it helps having an incredibly self-aware daughter who has grown up knowing she can be super real with her mom.

Case in point, this truly epic text exchange took place over the weekend while Bella was hunting for tampons at the store.

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Health

27-year-old who died of cancer left behind final advice that left the internet in tears

"Don't feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life. You might want a mediocre life and that is so OK."

Photo courtesy of Remembering Holly Butcher/Facebook used with permission.

Holly Butcher left behind her best life advice before she passed away at 27.

The world said goodbye to Holly Butcher, a 27-year-old woman from Grafton, Australia.

Butcher had been battling Ewing's sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that predominantly affects young people. In a statement posted on Butcher's memorialized Facebook account, her brother, Dean, and partner, Luke, confirmed the heartbreaking news to friends.

"It is with great sadness that we announce Holly's passing in the early hours of this morning," they wrote on Jan. 4, 2018. "After enduring so much, it was finally time for her to say goodbye to us all. The end was short and peaceful; she looked serene when we kissed her forehead and said our final farewells. As you would expect, Holly prepared a short message for you all, which will be posted above."

Butcher's message, which Dean and Luke did, in fact, post publicly shortly thereafter, has brought the internet to tears.

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They've blinded us with science.

Stock photos of any job are usually delightful cringey. Sure, sometimes they sort of get the essence of a job, but a lot of the time the interpretation is downright cartoonish. One glance and it becomes abundantly clear that for some careers, we have no freakin’ clue what it is that people do.

Dr. Kit Chapman, an award-winning science journalist and academic at Falmouth University in the U.K., recently held an impromptu contest on Twitter where viewers could vote on which photos were the best of the worst when it came to jobs in scientific fields.

According to Chapman’s entries, a day in the life of a scientist includes poking syringes into chickens, wearing a lab coat (unless you’re a “sexy” scientist, then you wear lingerie) and holding vials of colored liquid. Lots and lots of vials.

Of course, where each image is 100% inaccurate, they are 100% giggle inducing. Take a look below at some of the contenders.

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