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A mom whose 19-yr-old died by suicide has a vital message for parents about marijuana today

"You may be thinking, 'C'mon, Laura, it's no big deal – it's just pot.' 'Pot's legal, so it must be safe.'"

Johnny Stack

Laura Stack's son Johnny lost his life to suicide three months ago when he was just 19 years old. Though she says the grief of his death is "still fresh," Stack took to Facebook to share something that happened three days before Johnny died, hoping it will help other parents whose kids may be at risk.

She wrote:

"On Sunday, November 17, 2019 around 5:30 PM, he came over for dinner. He lived in our condo a couple miles down the street and would often pop in for a home-cooked meal. This evening, he was a bit agitated but lucid. 'I need to tell you that you were right,' he told me. 'Right about what?' I asked. 'Right about the marijuana and the drugs. You told me weed and drugs would hurt my brain, and it's ruined my mind and my life. You were right all along. I'm sorry, and I love you.' He died by suicide three days later.

Stack explained that Johnny had "dabbed" since he was 15 or 16. "Do you understand the difference between smoking pot (and some edibles) and dabbing high-THC wax, shatter, or butter?" she asked. "Most of my friends look at me blankly when I say these words and say, 'I've never even heard about this.' If you don't know what cannabis extracts are, and you have children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews between the ages of 14 and 24, PLEASE keep reading."

"I am NOT talking about those of you who are supporters of legal recreational marijuana for adults over 21 years old—it's your life—do what you want," Stack clarified. "I know some people who take it successfully for specific medical purposes, so please don't write comments in my post about my personal experience. I'm specifically talking about illegal usage by children and young adults under 21, whose adolescent brains are still forming. You may be thinking, 'C'mon, Laura, it's no big deal – it's just pot.' 'Pot's legal, so it must be safe.' Or 'I did pot when I was a kid, too, and look, it didn't hurt me.'

Well, have you recently studied TODAY'S pot, and have you personally seen its effects on your children like I have?"

Stack explained why today's recreational cannabis is so different:

"First, the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a crystalline compound that is the main active ingredient of cannabis that gives the 'high,' is extracted out of the cannabis so that it's nearly pure. THC is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. Then a butane torch is used to heat the crystals (similar to beeswax) or oil in a 'rig' (just google it), or a vaping device with a heating element called a dab pen can be used. Forget the 'grass' or 'papers' that were rolled in the 70s and 80s. The pot we grew up with (10% or less THC content) is HUGELY different than today's high-concentrate extracts (often 80% THC content or higher)."

She also explained why young people tend to be affected more by these high THC concentrations, and that the earlier they start the more likely it is that they'll develop a disorder.

"The brain is still developing through a person's 20s, and psychotic disorders typically develop in the late teenage years. During brain formation, heavy cannabis use has been shown to have a negative effect on the formation of neural pathways. It can also lead to heavier drug use. While the vast majority of marijuana smokers never experience CIP, researchers have found that the earlier and heavier someone starts dabbing, the more likely it is that they will develop a disorder at some point (often years later). We must educate our children when they are young (10-12 years old) and use hyper-vigilance in the early teen years, which we found was much easier before the age of 16, when they could drive. We couldn't lock him up or monitor him 24/7. Keep talking and keep trying!!

The harmful combination of a still-forming mind, high-potency THC products, and a high frequency of use = Cannabis-Induced Psychosis. Yes, that's a real diagnosis (or High-THC Abuse – Severe). Repeated CIP incidents can trigger schizophrenia or other mental illness, and even when the cannabis is withdrawn, the psychosis doesn't go away. This is what happened to my beautiful boy. When he died, the toxicology report showed he had ZERO drugs in his system. He wasn't depressed, neglected, drugged, or unloved. He was psychotic, paranoid, and delusional by the time he reached 19, and he refused the anti-psychotic drugs that he now needed, because he thought he wasn't sick (common to schizophrenia)."

It's so easy to think that marijuana use isn't that big of a deal, especially since some states have begun legalizing the drug for recreational use and many people see it as "natural." But the mild, laid-back high many people picture with pot use is not the reality of many of today's marijuana products or methods. Parents need to be aware of the dangers cannabis-derived drugs pose to their children's mental health and educate them as early as possible.

Stack included the following links to articles and studies backing up what she's learned about today's THC products. These are things we all should read and share, as this knowledge and awareness could literally save someone's life.

Potent pot, vulnerable teens trigger concerns in first states to legalize marijuana - The Washington Post

The contribution of cannabis use to variation in the incidence of psychotic disorder - The Lancet Journal

Association of Cannabis Use in Adolescence and Risk of Depression, Anxiety, and Suicidality in Young Adulthood - Journal of the American Medical Association

Dabs, Wax, Vaping Weed, Edibles and the Real Impact of High Potency THC Products: What Parents Need to Know - Resources to Recover

How Marijuana May Damage Teenage Brains in Study Using Genetically Vulnerable Mice - Johns Hopkins

Significant link between cannabis use and onset of mania symptomsScience Daily

Cannabis-induced psychosis: A ReviewPsychiatric Times

Summary of literature on marijuana and psychosis - Moms Strong


Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on 02.21.20. The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and the subjects written about or quoted.

@ryan_s_mann/TikTok

He arrived just in the nick of time.

Experiencing homelessness can take a severe toll on a person's mental health. Even without studies confirming this (of course, they do), it’s not hard to imagine how not having a safe and comfortable place to live along with a lack of financial resources, nutrition and community—all while having to deal with other health conditions, constant stress, loneliness and the threat of danger—can be damaging to someone's well-being.

It’s also not hard to understand how repeated exposure to even one of these factors, let alone multiple on any given day, could result in suicidal ideation. According to an article posted by the Harvard Public Health Review in 2018, those experiencing homelessness in the U.S. are nine times more likely to die by suicide than those who aren't.

However, even with that alarming statistic, other studies have shown that someone who is prevented from taking an attempt on their own life is far less likely to do it a second time. And while those odds might change when considering life factors like homelessness, there is something to be said about how stepping in can truly keep someone from causing themselves irreparable harm.

And that’s what makes a short, sweet TikTok recently posted by Ryan Mann so powerful.

Mann’s content consists almost entirely of GoPro-style videos of himself riding a motorcycle. A trick here, a crash there, facing different elements. The usual content for a biker.

However, on July 14, we see Mann rushing on his bike toward a man he saw on a nearby bridge. Though it’s impossible to get full context from such a short video, presumably, the man was getting ready to jump off.

Once Mann arrives, he immediately steps off his bike to ask if the man is okay and tell him he was worried about him. The two then exchange a couple of hugs. At the end of the video, the man, who introduced himself as Cameron, confirmed that he was now safe.

Watch:

@ryan_s_mann It doesn’t matter who you were, who you are, or who you’re trying to become, everyday we have the chance to improve someone else’s life. Don’t waste that chance. #mentalhealth #mentalhealthmatters #bikelife #biker #motorcycle ♬ original sound - ryan_s_mann

Whether or not Cameron was actually dealing with suicidal thoughts, Mann’s stance, which he put in the video’s caption, rings true:

“It doesn’t matter who you were, who you are, or who you’re trying to become, every day we have the chance to improve someone else’s life. Don’t waste that chance.

Others who watched the video agreed with Mann’s sentiment and praised him for showing kindness.

“Character—doing something for someone you know can offer you nothing in return,” one person wrote.

Another added, “Bro need more compassionate people in society like you. Hopefully, he got some help. That hug had me tearing up. You’re a good person!”

Whether or not Cameron was on the brink of ending his life, it’s clear that at the moment, what he needed most of all was connection. It’s something we all need, and not just in times of peril. A warm interaction with another human is sometimes all it takes for the world to become a little brighter.

And as Mann so eloquently put it, there’s a chance for those little life-changing moments every day.

More

Renowned psychiatrist debunks the biggest myths about suicide in a candid Reddit AMA

Dr. Tyler Black hopes his answers make a difficult topic a little bit easier to understand.

Canva

Probably the biggest would be that suicide behaviour or thinking is only for people with mental illness.

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 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline , the Crisis Text Line (text "HOME" to 741741), and the Trevor Project 866-488-7386.

Suicide is one of the hardest topics to discuss.

That's why so many of us have such a difficult time recognizing signs of suicidality or responding to them.

Add to that the myths we're told about suicide — "just talking about is dangerous," for instance; or that people who are contemplating suicide always show outward signs — and it becomes even more difficult to navigate. Even as several high-profile celebrity passings, and rising suicide rates re-affirm that the discussion is now more important than ever.


On World Suicide Prevention Day, an expert took to Reddit to make the conversation just a little bit easier.

Dr. Tyler Black is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and the Medical Director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Emergency Department at BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver, where he's worked with thousands of families during his nine-year tenure.

Aside from the work and research he does at the hospital, Black is passionate about educating others about the science of suicide. And because he knows that the world's got questions, he set up an "Ask Me Anything" to give people a chance to further their understanding of suicide in order to reduce its rates.

One question makes it clear we need to rethink how we view suicide.

When one user posed the question of what one misconception Black wants others to stop believing, the doctor dropped some real knowledge that does away with the belief that only those with serious mental health issues become suicidal:

Probably the biggest would be that suicide behaviour or thinking is only for people with mental illness. Risk factors and protective factors don't work like that. Just like all humans are at risk for heart attack (some, very very very low compared to most humans, some very very very high), all of us have various risk factors that push us towards suicidal thinking and protective factors that push us away. Mental illnesses add to our suffering but so do physical illnesses, stressors, bad news, poor sleep, etc etc. There are hundreds of risk and protective factors that all work in different directions to influence suicide risk.

This misconception, Black explained, allows us to ignore risk factors until they're at crisis levels. It also allows us to not think about suicide until a person shows outward dysfunction. But for many people, suicide isn't often predated by a long period of mental illness.

That's why it's so important for us to be aware of the emotional states of our friends and loved ones, check in on them regularly, and make an effort to be there for anyone we care about.

What can you do to help others? Show up.

One of Black's most important points is this: Often, we undervalue the impact we have in others' lives. We think that psychiatrists are the only ones who can help those who may be contemplating suicide, but as Black notes — mental health professionals are just one piece of the puzzle.

Recognizing that we have the ability to help others, only if it's just by listening, is a powerful way to let those we care about know they're not alone. So if you've been thinking about calling a friend who is struggling, or just saying hi to someone you haven't seen in a while — now's a good time to reach out. Of course, no one's expecting us to single-handedly change a person's entire outlook on life, but making contact can make a huge difference.

This article originally appeared on 09.11.18


5 best moments from Stephen "tWitch" Boss

This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.


Stephen "tWitch" Boss died by suicide December 13. His wife, Allison Holker Boss released a statement to People saying, "It is with the heaviest of hearts that I have to share my husband Stephen has left us. Stephen lit up every room he stepped into. He valued family, friends and community above all else and leading with love and light was everything to him."

Anyone that has spent time watching "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" knows who tWitch is. He danced his way into people's hearts on "So You Think You Can Dance" in 2008 before eventually keeping the audience dancing as Ellen's DJ from 2014 until the show ended earlier this year. It was obvious that Boss and Ellen were friends on and off the set.

The laughter always seemed abundant between the two of them and the show wouldn't have been the same without him. Boss became an executive producer on the show during the last few seasons.


Boss also dipped his toe into acting, appearing in the "Step Up" movies, "Magic Mike XXL" and "Hairspray." He also had roles on the small screen, but Ellen is where we got to know his sense of humor and were introduced to his family. There was even an episode of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" where he danced with his son for Father's Day. Over a span of nearly 10 years on the talk show, there were bound to be moments that stuck out. Below are five of Boss' most memorable moments from "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

1. Snake massage

There was the time that there were talks of a "snake massage" and things got awkward pretty quickly. But you know, Ellen didn't let it end at a little embarrassment for Boss, she upped the ante by giving him a special gift card. You have to watch the video to get the full effect of the moment.

2. Dancing to royalty-free music

Boss was a talented dancer and I don't think anyone would dispute that, but once Ellen put his skills to the test by having him dance to royalty-free music. It's the kind of music that often has no words and can feel a bit like clunky elevator music. Yeah, he danced to that and somehow made it look good.

3. Turning into a robot

With the skill that Boss possessed on the dance floor, others dreamt of dancing with him, so when Dytto, a dancer known for her robotic moves, came on the show, she of course had to dance with the famous tWitch. It was a sweet moment that somehow looked choreographed though it was completely freestyle. I will forever be in awe of people that can move their bodies like that.

4. TikTok dance-off

When Derek Hough stopped by the studio, Boss and the "Dancing With the Stars" alum tried their hand at copying dances from TikTok that popped up behind them. The moment it starts, eyebrows raise and hilarity ensues.

5. Ellen's tWitch tribute

There couldn't be a greatest list without including Ellen. This tribute to tWitch hits a little differently now that he's gone, but it goes to show how true their friendship was.

Since the news of his passing, celebrities and fans have been leaving tributes for the late star. Ellen DeGeneres wrote on Instagram, "I'm heartbroken. tWitch was pure love and light. He was my family, and I loved him with all my heart. I will miss him. Please send your love and support to Allison and his beautiful children - Weslie, Maddox, and Zaia."

One fan, Valerie Nathanson wrote, "Oh no! This is simply shocking news. How tragic. I’m so sorry. The world is left not as good as it was yesterday without him in it."

Another fan, Shannon Diepenbrock wrote, "I can’t. This breaks me down big time. I literally watched Ellen just for him. RIP, Boss, Twitch, you are always going to be missed by so many.💔"

It's clear that Boss left an impression on this world and will truly be missed by all who knew him and those who watched him on television. Most of all, he will be missed by his family.