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Protest Black Lives Matter

Multiple Black Men Found Hanging From Trees Sparks Demand For Lynching Investigations

The bodies of four black men have been discovered hanging from trees in various parts of the country, and while police officers are ruling each incident as a suicide, the public isn’t as convinced, especially in light of all the Black Lives Matter protests that have been occurring everyday for the past few weeks in response to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other innocent black lives at the hands of the police. 

Lynching may seem like an outdated crime, but the reality is the politics behind lynching are still very much relevant. In fact, the federal government just deemed lynching to be a federal crime this year, nearly 65 years after the case of Emmett Till rocked the nation. 

Now, tensions in America are running high, as we’re currently battling two deadly pandemics; the coronavirus and systemic racism. So when the bodies of four black men hanging from trees made headlines within the past month, individuals were convinced some sort of foul play must have been involved; especially considering the fact that members of the KKK have made appearances at some of the black lives matter protests within the past week.

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On June 9th the body of Dominique Alexander, 27, was found hanging from a tree with a rope around his neck in Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan. The next day the body of 24-year-old Robert Fuller was found hanging in a tree with a rope around his neck in Palmdale, California. Two weeks prior to both of these incidents, the body of 38-year-old Malcolm Harsch was found hanging from a tree in Victorville, California, which is about an hour away from Palmdale. On Wednesday June 17th, the body of a black male teenager was found hanging from a tree on the property of Ehrhardt Elementary School in Houston, Texas. 

All four of these deaths, except for Robert Fullers, have been ruled a suicide by local police forces. After a petition demanding LA county open a homicide investigation on Fuller’s death gained over 240,000 signatures, the County Sheriff said the death will be “probed as a homicide.” Regardless, the fact that all four of these deaths by hanging happened during such a tumultuous time politically, and within the same month as each other, has the public convinced that they were planned attacks. 

Fuller’s family specifically has been very vocal about the fact that they do not believe Fuller was depressed or suicidal in the slightest. The family of Malcolm Harsch has had the same attitude and is also demanding an independent investigation be opened up for his death. 

“The explanation of suicide does not seem plausible. There are many ways to die but considering the current racial tension, a black man hanging himself from a tree definitely doesn’t sit well with us right now. We want justice not comfortable excuses,”  Harsch’s family said to the media.

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The racial tensions in America currently are mirroring that of the 1960’s, hence the major concern over these four incidents of black men dying in a way that mimics how white individuals used to murder black people in this country for sport. The conversation surrounding lynching has also been circulating through these protests even before these deaths. After video footage was released of Ahmaud Arbery being chased and killed by two white supremacists, many people took to Twitter to state that the world just witnessed a black man get lynched on camera. 

People around the nation, and the world, are continuing to march everyday until some sort of resolution is met. The goal from these protestors is a complete overhaul of the police system and the way our government splits up funding. Considering the fact that we’re currently enduring the worst public health crisis in decades, healthcare providers are especially angry at their complete lack of resources, but the overwhelming amount of riot/protective gear the police have access too with their much higher budget. 

Regardless of if these deaths were suicides or not, the fact that America has now seen four black men “hang themselves” by a rope from a tree within the same month, during a time where racial tensions have heightened greatly, is definitely reason enough to open an intense investigation. 

Suicide and mental health within the black community is also a major issue. Within the past few years suicide has been on the rise among black teenagers and young adults. Unfortunately, studies suggest a major contributing factor to this rise is the systemic racism that shows itself in America’s schooling system, police force, physical/mental health care facilities, workforce, etc. This is why the movement has such an intense momentum behind it.

If you want to know more about the Black Lives Matter movement and how you can directly help from home, click here for access to dozens of petitions, donation pages, and fundraising efforts specifically for those fighting for racial equality right now.

Depressed Man

“Deaths of Despair” Reach Unprecedented Levels in US, Experts Say

Perhaps one of the most objective statistical indicators of the health of a society is the life expectancy of its citizens. In the United States, life expectancy has risen from 69.7 years in 1960 to 78.69 years in 2016, a gradual increase mirroring the success of medical advancements, public health campaigns, and general economic growth over the course of the modern era. However, American life expectancy has been on the decline in recent years, as a result of the epidemic of obesity as well as so-called “deaths of despair,” which include drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, and suicide. 

In a certain sense, this problem is unique to the United States, as other developed nations around the world have not seen a similar, concurrent decline in life expectancy. This worrying development persists despite the fact that the United States spends more on health care per capita than any other developed nation and that the quality of healthcare in the US, for those who are able to receive it, is comparable to that of most advanced countries. As such, experts believe that factors like “income inequality and mental distress” are the root cause of the increase in rates of death across the country, as the experience of despair leads people to make decisions that increase the chances of early death.

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When viewed as a public health issue, the specific factors that lead to early deaths among Americans become clear, as many Americans, even those who do not suffer from diseases of despair, can recognize the social factors that lead to the development of these illnesses either through their personal lived experiences or through the experiences of people they know. According to Anne Case, a contributing author of the book “Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism,”  “the pillars that once helped give life meaning—a good job, a stable home life, a voice in the community—have all eroded.” 

In Case’s account, the nationwide rise in despair has its roots in economic and political factors, as workers without college degrees have been left out of the increasingly-harsh labor market, men’s wages have remained stagnant for half a century, and companies have been eliminating decent-paying jobs with good benefits, instead outsourcing low-skill work to cheaper economies. Despite the changes in the distribution of wealth in the American economy, the government has failed to adjust to changes wrought by the rapid and accelerating pace of technological innovation and globalization, generating an atmosphere of despair among much of the American public, Case argues.

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While the highly-complex relationship between societal factors, despair, unhealthy behaviors, and early death requires more study, experts view the rise of drug abuse, particularly opioid abuse, as symptomatic of larger social pressures that reduce in people a sense of their meaning in life, instilling in them an attitude of nihilism and apathy that drives them to make unhealthy choices in pursuit of relief from their suffering. According to one study, rates of overdoses and suicides have been on the rise since the 1990s, suggesting that the problem is not just related to the current political environment, but also to longstanding social trends as well as substantial increases in the availability of illicit drugs. 

That being said, there are signs of hope that society is beginning to tackle the public health crisis of despair, as the stigma surrounding mental illness has diminished in recent years and an increasing number of businesses are prioritizing the health of their employees, including when it comes to problems like drug addiction and mental illness. If you’re experiencing despair, keep in mind that there exist resources to help with mental health problems, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), which is available 24 hours a day.

Happy Woman

Life Expectancy in America Declining According to Latest Study

A study published in the journal JAMA has highlighted some reasons behind the latest news that life expectancy in the United States has started decreasing, despite having been on the increase for several years.

The study discovered that Americans between the ages of 25 and 64, or “working age,” are dying younger due to a combination of suicide, hypertension, and drug abuse as well as over 30 more different causes.

It has also been discovered that other wealthy countries around the world have a longer life expectancy to those in the US, which appears to be declining at a dramatic rate. And with working age adults seeing the biggest increase in deaths Steven H. Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine believes it is a “distinctly American phenomenon.”

Woolf, who is co-author of the study alongside Heidi Schoomaker, explained that “death rates among working age adults are on the rise. We have known for years that the health of Americans is inferior to that of other wealthy nations, but our research shows that the decline in US health relative to other countries began as early as the 1980s.”

Both Woolf and Schoomaker looked at over 50 years worth of US life expectancy data with the results appearing to show that although life expectancy began to rise annually between 1959 and 2014, these figures stabilized around 2011 before declining again.

And America’s relationship with opioid abuse seems to be one of the main reasons, along with suicide and alcohol abuse, especially among young and middle aged adults. The figures increased amongst those who did not finish high school.

Strangely, the decline in life expectancy was higher in areas including Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont – all in New England, while those living in the “Ohio Valley” – Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana – were also affected.

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The rise of the opioid epidemic appears to be one of the main reasons in these areas, especially since the collapse of the manufacturing industries that were a strong source of income in the regions. In fact, since 2010 over one third of “excess deaths” were reported from the Ohio Valley states since.

However those living along the Pacific coast – Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington – saw their life expectancy increase during 2010 and 2017.

The authors of the report claims that data from previous years shows that Americans began to slip behind those in other countries as far back as the early 1980s.

“Historically this [period] was the beginning of the opioid epidemic, the shrinking of the middle class and the widening of income inequality,” Woolf said.

And although there were economic shifts around the world as a whole during this time, Woolf believes the lack of support experienced by struggling families contributed to the drop in America stating that “in other countries, families that fall on hard times have programs and services available to cushion the blow. In America, people often have to fend for themselves.”

With few social services to help families it may help us to understand why there was a larger increase in death among females as they “have even fewer support systems, and more childcare responsibilities.”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Howard Koh commented on the study, saying that although the “most exhaustive and detailed analysis of this topic to date” has helped us find the main causes of death the citizens of America should start “embracing the leading causes of life.”

For instance, by looking at how social connections alongside strong communities are affecting our wellbeing.

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“Other countries spend relatively more in terms of social services. Health is much more than what happens in a doctor’s office. It starts where people live, learn, labor and pray.”

So what can we do to improve our life expectancy? Harvard Medical School has a few suggestions and while most of them are both obvious and easier to do, some may have you asking why!

For instance, we all know that smoking, excessive drinking and drug abuse will seriously damage our health but did you know that people who have quit smoking could repair some of the damage caused by cigarettes, cigars and even marijuana?

Once you stop smoking your risk of heart disease starts to reduce after only a few months, matching that of a non-smoker after around 5 years. Likewise with strokes. Giving up tobacco can see a reduction in the risk of having a stroke within two to four years while the mortality rate from colorectal cancer also reduces each year.

And while these statistics apply to most people, quitting smoking before you reach 50 will make the health benefits stronger, sooner.

There have also been discussions on the dangers of vaping, with many calling for the fruit flavored options to be banned.

A healthy diet, keeping fit and building a good network around you are also key to keeping you healthy and strong and therefore living longer.

By doing these things we can hopefully turn the trend on the average American’s life span before we are in “a future in which declining life expectancy may be the new norm.”

World Mental Health Day

Mental Health Illness In Young People Reaches ‘Alarming’ Rates

With reports suggesting one person commits suicide every 40 seconds worldwide, there have been calls to address the alarming rates of young people suffering from mental illness.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst young people aged 15 to 29 and became the focus of the World Health Organization (WHO) during this years’ World Mental Health Day.

The WHO are keen to promote measures which can be taken to help prevent and reduce levels of suicide across the world. Their recommendations include reducing access to the means of suicide, ensuring that the media always reports responsibly on the topic, introducing more school/college-based interventions and identifying cases early – such as individuals who already suffer from mental illness or substance abuse.

There are also calls to improve the training of non-specialized health workers, so that they are better able to recognize and monitor those at risk from suicide. Not forgetting that mental health issues can be long term and require continual monitoring, the WHO has also recommended more adequate follow-up care and community support for those who have previously attempted suicide.

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On the November 7th the WHO and UNICEF hosted a global conference to discuss child and adolescent mental health. The WHO’s 2013-2020 action plan aims to reduce global suicide rates by 10% by 2020 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are aiming for a 33% reduction by 2030.

With an estimated 3.1% of the US population suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder affecting more than 16 million American adults, it is of critical importance that people feel supported through any mental health difficulties but are also empowered with techniques to alleviate any unnecessary feelings of fear, depression and anxiety so that these do not become a wider issue.

Whilst it is true that an element of fear is required for survival and motivation, these feelings can be crippling and have a drastic impact upon someone’s quality of life. Within his new book A Life Without Fear transformational coach Garry Jones is keen to share practical tools and the necessary push to go out, take control and use exactly what works for them to their own benefit.

At the heart of Garry’s process is a simple A.B.C; he encourages people to Accept nothing, Believe nothing and Check everything. He doesn’t think It is enough for people to simply take his word for it that these techniques work, he is passionate that everyone needs to try these tools for themselves to really discover what is most effective for them. Garry explains “The real test is the “Check Everything” part. It is very easy to do the first two using a solid set of beliefs/truths that are yours. The most important part is to check it.”

The book is set out in his M.A.G.I.C.K structure, Meditation, Anchor, Gratitude, Intentions, Cardio and Kin-aesthetic, and within this, he demonstrates the importance of acting upon the advice and techniques he provides. He says “Billions of pounds/dollars are spent each year on self-help books and media. And yet, very few people change. Why? The key to the clue is the very first word – SELF! Taking responsibility for change. Wanting to change. Really wanting to change. So, unless you are prepared to take that to heart, save yourself some money and put this book back on the shelf”

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Garry emphasizes the importance of breathing throughout. For Garry, a life without fear is purely breathing with ease. He thinks that to really minimize fear and embrace life, people need to utilize their whole lung capacity, which currently many people do not, particularly if they are consumed by panic or worry. Garry thinks that breathing has major transformative powers and can alter our body chemistry. Focusing on the out breath helps to reduce these feelings because this activates the Vagus nerve which has the power to change someone’s heartbeat. He also says sufferers should fill the space in their lungs not only with air, but also with gratitude and positivity.

This is alongside clearing out the brain clutter, changing their perspective and embracing the beneficial impact of cardio that he believes also contribute extensively to mental well-being.

For Garry, everyone deserves to live a life without unnecessary fear and it is only by taking action will this be truly possible. It is not enough to simply own and read ‘self-help’ books as he is passionate that action is the vital component needed for release.

“To really move forward individuals need to give themselves permission to change, hold themselves to account and be honest with themselves in order to create a future without fear where they feel truly alive,” explains Garry.

Protest Hong Kong

Hong Kong Protests Escalate, Threatening Society

The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have only grown more intense as time has progressed, despite the introduction of measures designed to curb frequent and massive demonstrations such as the withdrawal of a bill that would have allowed extradition of political dissidents to China and the instatement of a face-mask ban and curfews designed to discourage dissent. While the loosely-organized but nonetheless formidable protestors remained non-violent for several months, recent escalations by both demonstrators and police have led to the development of a more dangerous and confrontational relationship between the two, with no signs of de-escalation anytime soon. In fact, the situation has become so precarious that Hong Kong police worry about the impending collapse of the rule of law, particularly in the aftermath of the shooting of one protestor and the setting on fire of a supporter of Beijing on Monday.

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After five months of intense protests and the ongoing failure of the Hong Kong government to satisfy most of the protestors’ demands, demonstrators remain unrelenting despite growing increasingly frustrated with government inaction, creating an environment more hospitable to violence and other anti-social behavior. As the protests went on, police resorted to increasingly-violent counter-protest strategies, deploying tear gas and using water cannons and rubber bullets against demonstrators who threw bricks and molotov cocktails, destroying property. October 1st of this year marked a turning point in the use of violence against protestors in Hong Kong, as police shot an 18-year old protestor in the chest at point-blank range, leaving him in critical condition. 

As neither demonstrators nor the government seem willing to compromise or relent, the ongoing intense protests are bound to gradually erode Hong Kong society for as long as they continue.

Yesterday, police again used live rounds against a protestor, firing at point-blank range in an area where demonstrators were blocking traffic, after which police deployed pepper spray to disperse protestors as onlookers accused them of murder. In a separate, unrelated incident yesterday, protesters doused a man who was criticizing the protests with gasoline and lit him on fire. Both individuals survived the attacks and are being treated in hospitals, in serious condition. The city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has been ramping up her rhetoric against the protests, warning that they could “take Hong Kong to the road of ruin” and placing blame squarely on pro-democracy advocates, calling them “the enemy of the people” and accusing them of selfishly paralyzing the city. She added that she thought it was extremely unlikely that more protests would lead to further concessions from the government. In addition to physical violence, the unrest has included property destruction, as protestors have swarmed universities, destroying windows and fixtures by throwing bricks and setting things on fire. Throughout Hong Kong, classes at many universities were canceled as officials grappled with repairing the damage and preparing for future unrest.

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Nine people have committed suicide in connection with the protests, as political frustration and the erosion of democratic norms have caused mental health issues among Hong Kong’s youth, many of whom are deeply politically engaged. In addition, a man died after sustaining serious injuries during a fall in a car park where police were using tear gas to break up protests. Though no one has yet been directly killed by police or protestors, further deaths are all but inevitable as long as protests continue. Police say that in the last week they have arrested 266 people in connection with the protests, and as the number of active protesters is estimated to be in the millions, the number of arrests is sure to climb. Furthermore, months of protests have had a destructive effect on Hong Kong’s tourism industry and economy more broadly, as the once-safe city is now subject to frequent, violent interruptions to everyday life, and critical city infrastructure remains in a state of disrepair. 

Hong Kong is scheduled to hold local elections this month. Due to Hong Kong’s political structure, however, the outcome of these elections are unlikely to have a strong impact on the government, and are especially unlikely to appease protestors. As neither demonstrators nor the government seem willing to compromise or relent, the ongoing intense protests are bound to gradually erode Hong Kong society for as long as they continue.