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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘suicide’

Opioids, Suicide, And Accidental Overdose

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

When I was 18, a friend, someone who was a member of the same community and shul, died under strange circumstances. That was many years ago and I do not remember all the details.

What I do recall vividly is that roughly six months after the person passed away a rumor spread that he died of an overdose – because his body had been found completely undisturbed in an empty lot. I was shocked by the revelation but since there were some changes in his behavior prior to his death that were not otherwise explainable, I reluctantly accepted the news. I also knew of others in the community who were using illegal substances to get high. But what I was most troubled by even then was that no one seemed to want to address the problem. It was hushed up – even denied – by all the adults.

Not much has changed since then. It is true that there are now many more agencies addressing the problem, even in our communities, but we still seem to be ignoring the causes, underlying issues, trends, and best practices.

According to the primary sources, among them the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control, we are in the midst of a drug epidemic driven primarily by prescription drug use. The drugs of choice today are primarily opioids – painkillers. The best known among them is OxyContin. It is estimated that each day in the U.S. some 44 people die of an opioid overdose.

Opioids work like heroin – they suppress body functioning. The high comes from their sedating effects. It is that which makes heroin-type medications lethal. Prescription drug users who become addicted to their medications often turn to street heroin for their high when the medication runs out.

People resort to drugs for a variety of reasons, among them a simplistic or reflexive approach to coping with pain, an attempt to hide anxieties, or for random recreational reasons.

Alcohol, of course, is one of the most readily available of drugs. But our society turns a blind eye to the alcohol epidemic affecting so many families. And it is not just a phenomenon among college students; alcohol use today impacts children as young as 12 along with their parents and grandparents. And not just at Kiddush clubs.

In addition to elevated rates of alcohol consumption, marijuana is now legal in many places and some take that to mean it is not a substance to be used carefully in a very limited and prescribed fashion. Gateway substances such as alcohol and marijuana are dismissed as being of no consequence, but some people are rapidly addicted to them and go on to more addictive substances. Some become addicted when they are given medications that trigger an addictive response. Some become addicted when seeking a way to numb psychic pain. We see a lot of that among people who have been abused.

There has been concern recently regarding opioid use and suicide rates. As I write this, a report is circulating that claims dozens of people have committed suicide in our communities over the past few months (most of them using opioid substances). But is that necessarily an appreciable increase over previous years? The number, while alarming, does not tell us anything about prior rates of suicide because it was difficult to obtain accurate data on these issues in the frum world.

I believe that making a statistical leap of faith occurs when we conflate issues. Yes, there has been a significant increase in opioid-related addiction problems, including death, as documented by the CDC and several departments of health in several states. (Several organizations are attempting to address that fact while other organizations are capitalizing on it.)

But while we may reasonably hypothesize that suicide is, in part, related to opioid abuse, to suggest – in the absence of hard evidence – that there has been an increase in the suicide rate in our community is not justified. Well before there was an opioid epidemic young people were dying from a wide range of causes (including suicide). And while there is no doubt a link between suicide and a history of abuse, suggesting that all suicide is linked to abuse is premature at best and foolish at worst.

What all this suggests is that as a community we are finally, perhaps begrudgingly, starting to acknowledge that addiction, abuse, mental illness, suicide – all of the ailments that plague humanity – exist in our world too. If, however, we mishandle this awareness and are irresponsible with the data, we will not be able to intervene in a healthful helpful way.

Dr. Michael J. Salamon

Oriana Fallaci And The Suicide Of The West

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Oriana Fallaci, the Italian journalist who late in life did a profound about-face – going from leftist supporter of revolutionary movements to resolute defender of the West and vocal opponent of Islamic fundamentalism – died ten years ago this week in Florence.

The 77-year-old Fallaci had been battling cancer for years, but her illness had no discernable effect on her legendary combativeness – which after 9/11 was directed almost exclusively at what she described in vivid, often angry, prose as the threat posed by radical Islam to Western values and the suicidal indifference to that threat on the part of Western elites, particularly those in Europe.

Fallaci was always a fighter; raised in an anti-Fascist family, her father was a leader in the underground battle against Mussolini and she herself was involved at a young age in the Resistance. Although for decades as a journalist her worldview was decidedly left wing and shot through with an abiding cynicism toward the U.S., her thinking underwent a swift evolution with the rise of jihadism.

Her book The Rage and the Pride, published in Italy just months after the 9/11 attacks and in the U.S. in September 2002, unabashedly celebrated the United States as a bastion of freedom even as it acknowledged the country’s “flaws and mistakes and faults.”

In a follow-up book, The Force of Reason, published in the U.S. a few months before she passed away, she detailed the legal attacks – Muslim groups in France and Italy filed lawsuits against her and called for a ban of The Rage and the Pride while the Swiss government asked that she be extradited to stand trial for incitement – and the death threats that had come her way since she’d begun writing on Islam.

In The Force of Reason she stated that Islam “sows hatred in place of love and slavery in place of freedom” – a choice of words that reflected the tone of her writing in her final years and that led critics to slam her for what they said was a blanket condemnation of all Muslims.

Although Fallaci was for decades decidedly pro-Palestinian, she painted a wholly unflattering picture of Yasir Arafat after interviewing him in 1972.

“He was…five feet three, I’d say. And even his hands were small, even his feet. Too small, you thought, to sustain his fat legs and his massive trunk, with its huge hips and swollen, obese stomach.”

When he spoke, “His voice had a kind of funny whistle in it. And something feminine.”

But when Arafat got angry, “his soft voice becomes a loud one, his eyes become pools of hatred, and he looks as though he would like to tear you to pieces along with all his enemies.”

Under Fallaci’s prodding, Arafat inadvertently exposed the shifty parameters of the then-still nascent myth of Palestinian nationhood.

Fallaci: But what does Palestine mean?…The Turks were here, before the British Mandate and Israel. So what are the geographical borders of Palestine?

Arafat:…. From an Arab point of view, one doesn’t speak of borders; Palestine is a small dot in the great Arabic ocean. And our nation is the Arab one, it is a nation extending from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and beyond….

When Fallaci continued to press him on the matter of borders, a flustered Arafat reiterated: “I repeat that borders have no importance. Arab unity is important, that’s all.”

In April 2002, Fallaci publicly repudiated her longtime (and largely uncritical and unquestioning) support for the Palestinian cause in a scorching essay on anti-Semitism.

As the journalist Ruth Ellen Gruber described it, “Repeating over and over the assertion ‘I find it shameful,’ Fallaci unleashed a brutal indictment of Italy, Italians, the Catholic church, the left wing, the media, politically correct pacifists and Europeans in general for abandoning Israel and fomenting a new wave of anti-Semitism linked to the Mideast crisis.”

In Fallaci’s memorable words, she was “disgusted with the anti-Semitism of many Italians, of many Europeans” and “ashamed of this shame that dishonors my country and Europe.”

“I find it shameful,” she wrote, “and I see in all this the resurgence of a new fascism, a new Nazism.”

Acknowledging that in the past “I fought often, and bitterly, with the Israelis, and I defended the Palestinians a lot – maybe more than they deserved,” Fallaci was characteristically unambiguous about where she now stood:

“…I stand with Israel, I stand with the Jews,” she wrote. “I defend their right to exist, to defend themselves, and not to allow themselves to be exterminated a second time.”

In an interview published shortly before her death, Fallaci drew the battle lines for what she viewed as an escalating war between the West and an enemy all too similar to the Fascists her family fought in the 1930s and ‘40s.

“I am convinced,” she told The New Yorker’s Margaret Talbot, “that the situation is politically substantially the same as in 1938, with the pact in Munich, when England and France did not understand a thing.

“With the Muslims, we have done the same thing…. I reject them, and this is not only my duty toward my culture. Toward my values, my principles, my civilization. It is not only my duty toward my Christian roots. It is my duty toward freedom and toward the freedom fighter I am since I was a little girl fighting as a partisan against Nazi-Fascism.

“Islamism is the new Nazi-Fascism. With Nazi-Fascism, no compromise is possible. No hypocritical tolerance. And those who do not understand this simple reality are feeding the suicide of the West.”

Jason Maoz

Let’s Talk Responsibly About Suicide

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

There is a tendency in some circles to take a tragic event or series of events and try to turn it into a trend that reflects poorly on religious Jews.

There has been a wave of people going public in recent years with memoirs about their rebellion against religious life and the unfortunate misery they endured while forced to adhere to a lifestyle they did not value.

Jewish and secular media are constantly on the lookout for validation or elevation of the concept that the more strictly Orthodox a Jew’s upbringing, the more likely he or she is to be dysfunctional and unhappy – unless they are fortunate enough to escape and write a bestseller about it.

Do not misunderstand me. As president of Our Place, a non-profit organization that provides support, shelter, and counseling for our troubled youth, I will not for a moment dismiss the urgent need for such people to find their comfort level and be true to who they are at heart.

It has been one of my life’s missions to help individuals on that path find peace. I have seen far too many tragic outcomes when drugs and conflict take hold and hope is extinguished, along with a young life that held enormous value and promise.

But perspective is important, and perspective is very elusive when it comes to the media. One life – one single precious life – that is snuffed out because suicide seemed the only remedy is a thousand times too high a price to pay. And it is not one life, it is many.

But in recent months, following a few high profile suicides, numbers have been thrown around that strain credibility and present a far more frightening picture than what I and others know actually exists.

I do not believe that more than 70 frum Jews have committed suicide since last Rosh Hashanah, as some have recently asserted in the media. This fits into the narrative of an increasingly dysfunctional community that some would like to see, but it is at odds with the evidence. I pressed one individual who was linked to that figure in a media report, and he assured me it did not come from him.

What’s at stake here is not just pride and accuracy and indignation at media mistreatment. Human lives are at stake because of this irresponsible talk. Because suicide is a disease – and it’s contagious.

Just as unstable people sometimes commit copycat crimes based on what they’ve seen on TV or read about in a newspaper or magazine, so can troubled individuals contemplate suicide when they see the level of attention it draws in its aftermath.

Perhaps some of those using the 70-plus figure are including drug overdoses in their total. In many cases, perhaps most, such deaths are unintentional, the result of unexpectedly potent drugs or inexperience with dosages. In many cases I have seen, such people, while troubled enough to be drawn to drugs, did not intend to end their lives.

Drug abuse can be cured, the toll of an overdose reversed. But suicide is irrevocable.

The Centers for Disease Control recognized copycat suicides as a dangerous phenomenon as far back as 1989, when a workshop was held to address the issue of “media-related suicide contagion.”

Experts agree that the reporting of drug overdoses can be beneficial to the public if it helps publicize the availability of programs such as hotlines and prevention and support groups like Our Place or The Living Room. But it can be detrimental and promote copycats if the coverage focuses on the method of suicide, the outpouring of love for the deceased at the funeral or memorial service, and all the positive attributes of the deceased without also mentioning that the person was deeply troubled.

The attachment of suicide to the idea of “escaping” a religious community is also highly dangerous, especially if it is depicted as a phenomenon larger than it really is. For example, the suicide rate in the general population, according to the American Society for Suicide Prevention, is 12.93 per every 100,000 people. With about 600,000 Orthodox Jews in the New York tri-state area, 70-plus suicides would amount to more than 15 people per 100,000.

I would never ask media outlets to stifle news of an actual tragedy, nor should anyone expect this. What I would ask for is more of the kind of skepticism we see when politicians or corporate leaders make public statements that are often less than truthful and/or self-serving.

Let’s have a smart dialogue about suicide that leaves behind hurtful and dangerous narratives and focuses where it counts most – on extending a compassionate hand to those who need one.

Eli Verschleiser

Israel Arrests Arab Assailant Almost Three Years After Attack

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

By Michael Bachner/TPS

Binyamin (TPS) – Israeli authorities recently arrested an Arab who stabbed and wounded a police officer in December, 2013 near the Israeli community of Geva Binyamin, the Shin Bet cleared for publication on Monday morning.

The suspect, 21-year-old Mohammed Younis Ali Abu-Hanak from Al-Abidiya near Bethlehem, was arrested almost three years after the attack.

Abu-Hanak revealed under questioning that his motive for committing the attack was to put an end to his hard life.

The investigation also revealed that Abu-Hanak purchased a kitchen knife on the morning of the attack and hid it inside his jacket. He boarded a taxi from Ramallah to Bethlehem in order to choose a random target for his attack. He decided to attack a policeman who was standing at a roundabout near the Jewish community of Geva Binyamin and the Palestinian Authority village of Jaba’.

Abu-Hanak exited the taxi, approached the policeman, and stabbed him once in the back, inflicting moderate injuries. He then fled the scene and managed to evade the authorities for two and a half years before finally being apprehended.

The Shin Bet said in a statement that it will “continue to operate with all its available resources to prevent terror attacks and to bring the perpetrators to justice, even when a long time has gone by since the attack was committed.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

ISIS Claims Suicide Bombing at Pakistan Hospital, Dozens Dead

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

The Da’esh (ISIS) terrorist organization claimed responsibility late Monday for a deadly suicide bombing at a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, another indication of the group’s growing worldwide metastases as U.S.-led coalition airstrikes double down on its forces in Syria and Iraq.

At least 69 people died in the attack, most of them lawyers, which took place shortly after the body of Bilal Kasi, provincial president of the Balochistan Bar Association, was brought to the medical center after a shooting earlier in the day.

The bombing was carried out when the lawyers gathered to protest his murder, Ehsanullah Ehsan a spokesperson for the Tehreek-e-Taliban terror group, told NBC News. The group is a break-off group from the Pakistani Taliban, which claimed responsibility for both attacks.

The group also claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on a children’s park in Lahore this past March.

The White House immediately issued a statement condemning the attack. “The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s horrific suicide attack in Quetta, Pakistan. That this attack occurred at a hospital and appeared to target a gathering of lawyers mourning the death of a respected colleague makes it all the more heinous.

“Our hearts go out to the families and other loved ones of the more than 60 killed, and we wish a speedy recovery to the dozens more injured. The United States is committed to our continuing counterterrorism partnership with Pakistan, and we remain resolute in joining with the people of Pakistan in confronting terrorism in Pakistan and across the region.”

Hana Levi Julian

Syrian Refugee Suicide Bomber a ‘Soldier of ISIS’ in Germany

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

The Islamic State terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the terror attack Sunday in the southern German city of Ansbach, calling the suicide bomber a “soldier of ISIS.”

A Syrian asylum seeker blew himself up outside a music festival on Sunday after he failed to gain entry to the event.

The quick action by guards who blocked the entry of the attacker contained the damage; 15 people were wounded but the bomber was the only casualty.

Initially there was uncertainty about the motives behind the explosion, with police telling media that the Syrian refugee “may have been suicidal” due to his personal circumstances. Security personnel said he had acted on his own.

But as the investigation clarified the amount of explosive material that detonated in the blast, combined with the fact that the operative made an effort to enter a festival filled with thousands of participants, the intent of the Syrian “refugee” became obvious.

In addition, The attacker who left a bomb outside a bar in Ansbach, Germany, had enough materials to make another explosive device, according to police. The man also pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video found on his phone.

The attacker left a bomb outside a bar in Ansbach and had enough materials to make another explosive device, according to police. The man also pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video found on his phone, according to a statement by Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Hermann, quoted by AP.

“A provisional translation by an interpreter shows that he expressly announces, in the name of Allah, and testifying his allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a famous Islamist leader, an act of revenge against the Germans because they’re getting in the way of Islam,” Hermann said at a news conference. “I think that after this video there’s no doubt that the attack was a terrorist attack with an Islamist background,” he added.

The Da’esh (ISIS) terrorist organization meanwhile claimed responsibility for being the inspiration behind the actions of the “lone wolf” attacker. But the group said the suicide bomber had acted in response to its calls to target nations who participate in the coalition fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The group had also taken responsibility for inspiring an attack in Germany last week by a 17-year-old who boarded a train and started swinging an ax and a knife.

Earlier in the day on Monday German sources said they had found ISIS propaganda on the bomber’s electronic devices. Police also found bomb-making equipment at his home.

The asylum seeker-turned-bomber had been given a place to live, even though he was not going to be allowed to stay in country permanently.

Hana Levi Julian

UPDATE – Terrorist Bombing Foiled near Jerusalem Train [video]

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Israel Police reported that an Arab man attempting to board the Jerusalem light rail at 9:10 AM Sunday was carrying an explosive charge on his person. The attempted terror attack happened at the train stop near the corner of King George and Jaffa (Yafo) Streets, in central Jerusalem,

The man, who was standing next to the train stop raised the suspicions of train security guards who inquired about his shoulder bag. A guard examined the bag and found multiple pipe bombs inside.

The terrorist is a Palestinian Authority Arab in his twenties from Beit Ula in the Har Hebron region. He was detained and the entire area was quickly cordoned off.

Police and sappers are examining and dealing with the explosives bag.

The terrorist was arrested and taken to a local police station for interrogation.

The areas around Yafo Street and King George are currently shut down to all traffic.

The constantly alert Jerusalem light Rail guards saved many lives today.

The terrorist arrived at downtown Jerusalem on an Egged bus, but didn’t blow the bombs up on the bus as he wanted to explode them on the Jerusalem train.

Police are checking the area to see if he was not alone.

10:26 AM – Police have declared the event over. The Jerusalem Light Rail is running again.

Natan Epstein, who was on the train at the time, reports from the field what he saw:

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/suicide-bombing-foiled-in-jerusalem/2016/07/17/

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