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This was originally published on Liberal America on March 2, 2017.
Facebook is using artificial intelligence (AI) to prevent suicides among its users. There are already tools in place to report a post of someone who is suicidal, but this will go even further. In a blog post, the company said they will be offering:
They are testing out a pattern-recognition algorithm that will look in posts for potentially suicidal thoughts. The Community Operations team will then look at the flagged posts to see if the person is in danger. They are starting out using these new features in the United States only, then they will begin expanding to more countries.
Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg would also like to use AI to try and spot terrorist posts and other inflammatory content. He said:
“Right now, we’re starting to explore ways to use AI to tell the difference between news stories about terrorism and actual terrorist propaganda so we can quickly remove anyone trying to use our services to recruit for a terrorist organization.”
It will take years to develop because they will need to make an algorithm that can tell the difference between a news story about an attack and propaganda.
I applaud the efforts to prevent suicide. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK. You can also use the Crisis Text Line by texting “HERE” to 741-741. Facebook is partnering with organizations around the world to help prevent suicides.
There is a new procedure being used to treat people suffering from depression. It is called trans-cranial magnetic stimulation.
It is usually used in cases where more traditional treatment methods fail to relieve the symptoms. For instance, there are many people out there who just can't find a medicine that will relieve their symptoms.
During the procedure, a magnetic coil is placed on your head, and it uses magnetic pulses to stimulate the neurons. It is meant to activate areas of the brain that have been shown to have less activity in people with depression.
It can cause some headache and maybe some discomfort at the area where the magnet was. Unfortunately, it can cause mania in some people with bipolar disorder. It is less likely to work in people with psychotic symptoms like me. Some research has shown that this procedure can help people with schizophrenia.
However, seeing things like this gives me hope. I would love to see a cure in my lifetime.
This was originally published on Off The Main Page on January 15, 2017.
Ayelet Waldman has struggled with depression and mood disorder during her entire life. She is a best-selling author, a wife, and a mother; however, her mental illness threatened that.
She would be kind and funny on good days; however, on bad days, she would snap at everyone. She had trouble getting a diagnosis and getting relief from her symptoms.
She managed to get her hands on a bottle of diluted LSD. She took a fraction of a regular dose every three days. It helped the bad thoughts go away for a while.
As someone who suffers from a mental illness, I stay stable with legal, prescription medicine. However, I couldn’t even imagine what things would be like if my meds didn’t work. Waldman was pretty brave to try LSD.
Some doctors will tell you that hallucinogenic drugs may make mental illness symptoms worse. It can cause intense delusions and hallucinations.
However, some universities are looking into this connection. Some trials suggest that psychedelics actually can help alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms.
Prof David Nutt, who is leading studies on this, says:
“We’ve banned research on psychedelic drugs and other drugs like cannabis for 50 years. Truly, in terms of the amount of wasted opportunity, it’s way greater than the banning of the telescope. This is a truly appalling level of censorship.”
LSD and other psychedelic drugs have a lot of promise it treating mental disorders and addiction. There were studies done in the 1960s, but they stopped when the drug was made illegal. Now, the government classifies them in the same category as heroin and other dangerous drugs, so it is hard to get funding for research with them.
I would love to see a cure for mental illnesses in my lifetime.
We do have a lot of things here about mental illnesses, but mental health also includes taking care of your brain.
Our brains develop in a very flexible process. As a baby we have trillions of synapses (connections) in the brain from every piece of knowledge we have. As we get older, these synapses eventually go away. Our brain "prunes" memories that we don't use. Everything we do and learn changes the structure of our brain. It is, arguably, the most important organ in the body. Take care of it.
Here are some tips on brain health from Reader's Digest's September 2016 issue:
Exercise Your Mind:
Scientists say that actively exercising your brain can keep your memory from deteriorating later on.
Play Games With Your Frontal Lobe:
Playing board games and doing puzzles can help keep you sharp.
Even just 12 minutes a day can help with blood flow to the brain.
Take Care of Your Heart
Taking care of your heart can help prevent cognitive decline. This can include quitting smoking, exercising, losing weight if you are overweight, and eating a rich diet among many other things.
Listen to Music
Listening to or playing music can exercise many parts of the brain. Adults who have ten years of musical experience performed better on cognitive tests.
We are constantly learning new things about our brains. Maybe one day we could have a cure for mental illnesses.
A study of brain scans shows that gene mutations affect the structure and function of the brain. This mutation affects the gene, DISC1, which has been linked to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
This gene was found by studying a family prone to mental illnesses. They've been studying this for over 40 years.
This discovery could lead to new treatments for mental illnesses.
Professor Stephen Lawrie, Head of the Division of Psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh, said:
“This study confirms and extends the genetics of DISC1, and shows how that and similar genetic effects can increase the risk of major mental illnesses.”
The study was published in the journal, Nature.