Colour purple worn for bullied suicides

By Claudie Qumsieh

Victims of homophobic bullying are being remembered today as hundreds of thousands of people wear purple in tribute. In the past month alone at least 10 teenagers have committed suicide in the U.S after bullying related to their sexual orientation.

These high-profile cases have led to a global movement started by gay journalist Dan Savage whose “It gets better” clip has been watched by almost a million people on You Tube.“When a gay teenager commits suicide, it’s because he can’t picture a life for himself that’s filled with joy and family and pleasure and is worth sticking around for[…] So I felt it was really important that, as gay adults, we show them that our lives are good and happy and healthy and that there’s a life worth sticking around for after high school” This project has resulted in hundreds of people (including celebrities) posting their own testimonies and stories of hope on the newly created online video channel “It Gets Better”.

Hillary Clinton joined the campaign today when she posted her video saying “These most recent deaths are a reminder that all Americans have to work harder to overcome bigotry and hatred. I have a message out there for all the young people who are being bullied, or who feel alone and find it hard to imagine a better future.  First of all, hang in there. And ask for help. Your life is so important — to your family, your friends, and to your country.” Clinton goes on to  speak about civil servants who work at the state department “It wasn’t long ago that these men and women would not have been able to serve openly, but today they can. Because it has gotten better. And it will get better for you”.  Although civil servants can be openly gay and keep their job, America’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy is still causing controversy. DADT  means that gay military personnel must conceal their sexual orientation when serving otherwise they will be dismissed. A recent call to overrule this policy failed, however one judge has reopened the debate this week.

One supporter of the DADT policy, a Republican Tea Party candidate for US Senate Ken Buck compared homosexuality to alcoholism “I think that birth has an influence over [homosexuality] like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that, basically, you have a choice”.

The U.S case is not unusual. In Scotland young gay and bisexual men are 6.7 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. In an NHS Greater Glasgow survey “Something to tell you” 80% of gay young people said they have experienced discrimination. According to a Stonewall survey 68% of young Scottish lesbian, gay or bisexual people have been bullied at school, 21% of Scottish schools teach that homophobic bullying is wrong. In schools that say homophobic bullying is wrong, gay pupils are 60% less likely to be bullied.

Actor Sir Ian McKellan,Co-founder of Stonewall, is touring schools in the UK to promote tolerance. At a time when educating children about tolerance and difference is a priority, the Christian Institute unhelpfully published an article headlined McKellan “set to promote homosexuality in schools”. As Sir Ian says religionis the one area where people are not frightened to be openly homophobic”.

Woman overboard

By Martin Adam

A woman has tragically plummeted to her death in an apparent suicide attempt on board a cruise ship.

The individual who has yet to be named was travelling on the Celebrity Cruises owned ship Celebrity Solstice as it embarked on a return leg of its Mediterranean journey from Santorini to Naples.

Just before 9 pm Greek time on November the 6th, the woman was sighted purposefully falling from deck level fourteen, three hours after leaving port.

The Celebrity Solstice (Courtesy of http://www.cruisebusiness.com)

Buoys lighting the area of sea in which the female fell into were deployed from the sides allowing the ship to gradually slow down, make a turn and return to the original point of course the jump was made from.

Dramatic rescue attempts followed as the liner’s crew searched for the missing person over a ten hour period in an operation coordinated with another ship alongside navy and coastguard rescue under spotlights. Greek authorities are understood to have relieved the liner from rescue attempts at 3:45 am.  The search proved to be in vain and a body was not retrieved from the waters. However crew have identified the passenger assisted by evidence captured on CCTV cameras, and a thorough search of cabins available on the vessel after residents were asked to return to their rooms.

Passengers and crew were alerted to the situation when a call was relayed over the Tannoy system urging staff on all decks to immediately proceed towards port side.

Patricia Adam who was situated on deck number fifteen at the time detailed that on her level “a dozen or so holidaymakers rushed over to the side, frantically trying to spot anybody struggling in the waters”.

The worrying incident disturbed a number of passengers to some degree. Adam summed up the consensus mood on a trip of a life time turned sour.

“Everybody was shocked after something so unexpected; you could say it was a sense of surprise amongst the two thousand odd passengers.”

“The two members of service staff I personally spoke to shared my sense of concern for the wellbeing of the missing passenger.”

Celebrity Cruises released the following statement in regards to the incident.

“The ship’s Captain immediately turned the ship around, marked the position on the ship’s Global Positioning System (GPS), notified other ships in the area, and alerted Greek authorities, as well as the FBI.”

“The Greek Coast Guard immediately assisted with air and sea searches. Shipboard closed-circuit camera footage captured the guest going overboard and hasbeen made available to authorities.”

Testimony from passengers generally commended staff on their swift and professional response. Celebrity’s Guest Care Team is providing support to the family, and Celebrity Cruises is cooperating fully with government officials.

This was the fourth man overboard situation since the year 2000 on a Celebrity brandendorsed cruise. A trend of suicide at sea aboard cruise liners has marred the industry in recent times.

Challenging the stigma

By Kirsty Topping         30 October 2009

sun82The label mental illness is highly stigmatising. It encourages people to think of ‘the mentally ill’ as different, rather than seeing them as ordinary people who simply have more severe emotional difficulties to cope with. Popular misconceptions, fuelled by some in the media, see mentally ill people as violent and dangerous. A prime example of this was when The Sun’s reacted to the former boxer Frank Bruno being sectioned under the Mental Health Act and chose to run the headline “Bonkers Bruno locked up”.

Jean Cumming, the Chief Executive of Crisis, a Renfrewshire-based organisation which offers immediate intervention for mental health problems feels that people’s perception of mental health is one of alarm: “We fear mental illness because we can’t understand it; every person’s worst fear is that they will become mentally ill. We are fighting a battle to persuade them they are normal people affected by abnormal circumstances – and we strive to allay the fear the public has of mental illness because fear and apprehension breed an unsympathetic attitude.”

In a Scottish Government survey, half of all respondents said that they would not want anybody to know if they developed a mental health problem. Most people in the same survey said that they thought the media portrayed people with mental health problems negatively.

depression1In addition, a 2001 study found that only 37% of employers said they would in future take on people with mental illness. This compared to the 62% who would take on physically disabled people, 78% who would employ long-term unemployed people and 88% who would appoint lone parents. Little wonder then that 64% of young people say that they would be embarrassed to disclose a mental health problem to a prospective employer.

For such a common illness, there is still a massive stigma attached to depression, – 41% of people with mental health problems have experienced harassment living in Scottish communities, compared with 15% of the general public and some people will go into denial over their illness rather than suffer the stigma.

So severe is the problem of sufferer’s being stigmatised that three years ago a Scottish charity, Depression Alliance Scotland , was set up to tackle it. Former Depression Alliance Scotland chairwoman Cynthia Milligan wants the attitude to mental illness to change.

“Depression is a misunderstood illness which can have a devastating effect on those suffering from it. It is a tragedy that whilst depression is on the increase in Scotland many people do not seek treatment or support for fear of the stigma associated with both depression and mental health in general. The message is simple – depression is in most cases treatable and sufferers can greatly improve their quality of life”.

10spike_narrowweb__300x3900However, many famous faces are now coming forward and admitting that they suffer from mental ill health – thus helping to reduce that stigma. Famously, Caroline Aherne and Stephen Fry have both spoken about their experiences, while Kurt Cobain is probably one of the most famous suicide victims. Less well known is that funny-men Jim Carrey, Hugh Laurie and Spike Milligan have all suffered various degrees of depression. Following the birth of her daughter, Honey, Gail Porter spoke of her experience of post-natal depression, again helping to normalise the condition.

Fry is probably the most high profile person to publicly reveal their mental ill health; he suffered a highly publicised nervous breakdown in 1995, which was attributed at the time to bad reviews of his performance in a play called Cell Mates. At the time he was also suffering from serious clinical depression as a result of his then undiagnosed bipolar disorder. He subsequently walked out of the production and went missing for several days, during which time he contemplated suicide. He abandoned the idea and fled from the United Kingdom by ferry, eventually resurfacing in Belgium.

stephen-fryFry has since spoken publicly about the experience of living with bipolar disorder and has made and presented a documentary about the condition and his personal experience of it, Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic-Depressive where he interviewed other famous sufferers of the illness including Carrie Fisher, Richard Dreyfuss, and Tony Slattery. He also interviewed Rick Stein, whose father committed suicide, Robbie Williams, who talked of his experience with unipolar depression, and comedienne Jo Brand, who previously worked as a psychiatric nurse.

Efforts such as his go a long way towards explaining mental illness to the public at large who may have no experience of such things and therefore are more likely to be fearful of, and more likely to stigmatise, those suffering mental ill health. Giving the public information is the best way to normalise sufferers. With the correct treatment to manage their condition, patients are no different from anyone else.

Many eminent writers, artists, sculptors, philosophers, politicians, scientists, composers and actors have suffered from depression. With so many in the same boat, depression sufferers must remember that they are not alone and the days of being brushed aside and dismissed are long in the past. The identification and treatment of depression is the best it has ever been and there are support networks in place to help sufferers. Depression, and mental illness in general, is not a death sentence, even though it may sometimes feel like that.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Depression 3 part series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Little Britain star’s tragic loss

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by Emma Cameron

Kevin McGee, ex-husband of Little Britain star Matt Lucas, was found hanged at his Edinburgh flat on Monday after police broke into his home.

Television producer McGee, 32, had updated his facebook status to “Kevin McGee thinks death is better than life” just hours before his sudden death.

Funnyman Lucas has pulled out of his lead role in  West End play ‘Prick Up Your Ears’ to grieve for McGee. His part will now be played by understudy Michael Chadwick.  Producers of the play released a statement to the press stating that: “Our thoughts are with Matt whom we are in constant touch with.”

In a statement to ‘The Sun’, police said that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding McGee’s untimely death.

“We were called to an address in Bruntsfield Gardens, Edinburgh, at around 8am yesterday morning where a 32 year old man  was found dead.”

The former couple met before the major television success of the Little Britain series and wed in a lavish ceremony in December 2006. Lucas was granted a dissolution in October 2008 on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, specifically his cocaine addiction, by his partner, becoming the first celebrity to divorce a gay partner since same-sex marriages became legal.

Bid for assisted suicide in Scotland by Lothians MSP

by Margaret Kearns

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald has launched a bid to introduce a change of law legalising assisted suicide in Scotland. MacDonald, herself a sufferer of Parkinson’s Disease, will announce on Monday her plans for consultation, with a view to bringing the legislation before Parliament next year. The consultation paper will require the backing of at least 18 MSP’s and will attempt to include a patients right to end their life under the terms of palliative care.

Mrs MacDonald is a staunch supporter of assisted suicide for terminally ill patients and said “I’m doing this, not has an individual who suffers from a degenerative condition but as a legislator, a law maker, who has the privilege of being able to represent people and make things the way people would like things to be.” Her proposal will include plans to provide “physician-assisted suicide” within the structure of the NHS.

Protest at the proposed change will be expected from many representational bodies for religious groups and medical staff. Head of the Roman Catholic church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien has spoken out against euthanasia and any proposal to alter it’s illegality “If God gives us that gift, (of life) He can take that from us but we’re not taking it from Him and as it were saying, ‘well God, I’m finished with life because I can’t cope with cancer or Parkinson’s or whatever it has to be’. We just wait on God calling us to himself.”

Members of the legal profession are also damning the plan as they feel it is in direct violation of the Hippocratic oath and the motivation of the medical profession as a whole. A spokesman for the British Medical Association in Scotland, Dr. George Fernie has also said “We are a caring profession, we don’t want people not to be reassured that the profession are there doing their best for them, not to worry about the motives of that doctor”

Assisted suicide hit the headlines this weekend when it was revealed that a 90 tear old Londoner, only known as ‘Chris’ died on Friday at euthanasia clinic “Ex-International” in Switzerland. The man, who was not terminally ill, decided to end his life after deteriorating health had reduced it’s quality. 

It is not yet known whether the Mrs MacDonald’s plan will go into consultation, needing the approved support of fellow MSP’s, nor has it been clarified whether the legislation will provide for ‘passive’ or ‘active’ euthanasia. Active euthanasia would place responsibility on the physician to administer a lethal drug, passive defines the act as the deprivation of those things necessary to sustain the life of a patient.

It’s suicide to stop smoking

fags1 By Claire Charras

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland dismissed the findings of yesterday’s investigation by BBC Scotland on the suicidal effects of a drug used to help smokers quit made by Pfizer.

Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of ASH Scotland said: “The risks of continuing to smoke are certainly far greater than the risks from using any of the stop smoking treatments.”

The BBC’s investigation discovered there have been more than 3,000 complaints on the side effects of Champix® in the UK including 260 reporting suicidal-related reactions. Sixteen people have tried to kill themselves and ten have succeeded.

Duffy added: “Tobacco is a deadly drug. It is highly addictive and lethal, killing one in two of its regular long-term users. Smoking is responsible for 24% of deaths in Scotland each year occuring years earlier than they would otherwise - that’s 13,500 lives lost to tobacco each year.

“Drug treatments like Champix or Zyban are generally considered as options when a smoker has not been able to quit using other treatments. They remain prescription only because there are some contra-indications and because any adverse reactions need to be monitored carefully.”

Pfizer said “additional information on depression, suicidal ideation and suicide, and direct guidance about discontinuation of treatment if these symptoms occur and/or are of concern” was provided in August 2008.

Champix® or varenicline has been on the market since 2006. Pfizer states that 63% of patients who use the drug have successfully quit after four weeks.

Pfizer said: “As indicated in the labelling information for varenicline, stopping smoking, with or without treatment, is associated with nicotine withdrawal symptoms and the exacerbation of underlying psychiatric illness. Depressed mood may be a symptom of nicotine withdrawal. Depression, rarely including suicidal thoughts and suicide attempt, has been reported in patients undergoing a smoking cessation attempt, including patients taking varenicline.”

The drug company has made no statement as to whether they would look further into the case.

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