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Article of the Week: Week Nine

Posted Mar 03 2010 1:30pm

Most of my regular readers probably saw my disgusted rant yesterday about the recent BBC documentary, Why Did You Kill My Dad?.  Most of those with whom I communicate online regarding mental health have very strong views against this programme, which is unsurprising as – forgive my repetition – it was biased, unfair and stigma-inducing.  To that end, it was excellent to see a clarification of just how ordinary the vast majority of people with mental illness are in the hallowed pages of The Guardian .  (I suspect the Daily Hate Mail has spouted a load of bile in support of the documentary, but I can’t bring myself to check).

This article is fairly straightforward, but more than adequately covers all the salient points: violence and mental illness are not correlated; alcohol and drug abuse are, in the ill and ‘well’ alike, associated with higher rates of violence; the NHS is far from faultless in the care of those with severe mental illness; that sad cases such as those of Phillip Hendy represent only a tiny number of recorded murders per year (though the author of course acknowledges that any death is one too many).

She ended the article with what I thought was a very good point:

How many viewers watching this film will realise they’re in more danger from their partner beside them on the sofa than from a stranger with schizophrenia in the street?

Since the documentary, this piece has done the rounds on Twitter and probably Facebook et al as well, but if you haven’t happened upon it yet, it’s worth a read.  There’s some lively debate and interesting points made in the comments section too (though there are a few inevitable naysayers criticising the author).

Violence is Not a Symptom of Mental Illness

I came across the following article whilst Wiki-surfing the other day.  As Bippidee has discussed , the San Francisco authorities are planning to erect huge nets under the Golden Gate Bridge to deter potential suicides from jumping off it.  Which is a shame, as the bridge is beautiful (I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and have been on it), and it’s at an extortionate cost that would be better spent, surely, in mental health services.  Anyhow, as things presently stand, the Golden Gate is still the most popular suicide site in the world.

The New Yorker goes into fascinating, if morbid detail, as to why this may be.  It discusses in detail the perceived romanticism of jumping from the bridge and the experiences of the few survivors.  Apparently, some that survived the immense, four second jump have claimed afterwards that as soon as they fell, they realised that they didn’t, in fact, want to die after all.  The article also states that these survivors almost exclusively entered the water feet-down and at an angle; most others were probably killed instantly, as hitting water from that height has been demonstrated to be equivalent to hitting concrete.  The rare few that did survive the fall but later died usually drowned, as they ‘dived’ so deeply into San Francisco Bay.

There is a discussion of previous attempts to erect anti-suicide measures, and reasoning for their failures (usually cost or aesthetics).  One of the most intriguing, if horrific, parts of the article details exactly the kind of injuries a person can expect to sustain should they choose to jump from the Golden Gate – and it ain’t pretty at all.  Apparently it’s as if “someone took an eggbeater to the organs of the body.”

Random fact of which I was completely unaware: the most common phobia amongst the San Francisco populace is the fear of crossing bridges.  Who knew?

This is long and morbid, and really rather outdated too coming as it does from 2003, but it’s still a compelling and engaging read.

Jumpers: The Fatal Grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge

If you’re feeling particularly interested in investigating popular suicide spots (!), you might ‘enjoy’ the following article discussing the macabre popularity of the Aokigahara forest at the bottom of Mount Fuji, Japan.  The article, at the Providentia blog, claims that this forest is the world’s third most popular place to kill oneself, with Toronto’s Prince Edward Viaduct taking second.  However, Wikipedia claims that since the viaduct has erected its “luminous veil” (essentially a high barrier preventing jumps), Aokigahara has overtaken it.

The Suicide Forest

I always have to get an article about psychotherapy into these posts, don’t I?  This is from Psych Central , and discusses what side-effects one might expect from the therapeutic process.  It isn’t a very long article – though there’s a couple of interesting comments following it – and it focuses on a few specific types of disorders, but it still makes for interesting reading.

One point of interest is that when practicing exposure-based therapy with an agoraphobic client, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises can actually lead to a worsening of a panic.  The study discussed is not denigrating the use of such techniques in general, however; it is merely suggesting that they should not be taught simultaneously with exposure exercises.

Harmful Side Effects of Psychotherapy

As ever, there were half a million other articles that I found interesting, but for this week these were either my favourites, or the ones I felt most pertinent to other parts of my blog.

Enjoy…if you have the same sinister, grim capacity I do to enjoy stuff like this.

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