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Yawal2-Amazing MaharashtraBadi is a village with a population of about 20,000 located in the Yawai Wildlife Sanctuary in central India.

Badi is surrounded by scenic forested hills marked by shrines and temples.

In the first 3 months of 2016 80 Badi villagers committed suicide.

350 Badi villagers have taken their own lives in the last twenty years.

According to Rajendra Sisodiya, the sarpanch (elected official) of Badi;

“There are 320 families in our village and at least one person from each has killed himself or herself.”

Some of the villagers attribute the suicides to psychic attacks by malevolent demons.

Depending on how one characterizes a “demon” they may not be far wrong.Rakshasa

Pesticides long used in the region contain organophosphate which recent studies show may cause disruptions of cholinergic synapses in the brain.

Bodi is only 200 miles from Bhopal, the site of the worst industrial chemical poisoning disaster in history.

Those neural disruptions may be associated with depression and disordered thinking, and so possible related to the suicides.  A similar relationship of pesticides and suicide has been observed in China.

It is a profound notion to consider that environmental influences such as chemical may influence our minds and sense of self to the degree that people kill themselves.

Such a chemical influence is insidious in ways that 144px-Lifelinelogooverlap the concept of the “demonic.”

I wonder how many invisible influences are at work in the inner struggles of many people, including the 800,000 suicides world wide.

At least the story of Bodi is sufficient to cause all of us to reflect on why we experience inner struggle and to spark a doubt in the form “maybe it is not just me.”

I hope that India and China lay off the pesticide use even on the possibility that people are being physically and mentally poisoned.

Jon facilitates Death Café Corvallis which is open to all and meets weekly in Corvallis Oregon.



80 deaths in 3 months in ‘suicide village’ Badi – Times of India. (n.d.). Retrieved May 07, 2016, from

London, L., Flisher, A., Wesseling, C., Mergler, D., & Kromhout, H. (2005). Suicide and exposure to organophosphate insecticides: Cause or effect? Am. J. Ind. Med. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 47(4), 308-321. doi:10.1002/ajim.20147

Organophosphate poisoning. (n.d.). Retrieved May 06, 2016, from

Zhang, J., Stewart, R., Phillips, M., Shi, Q., & Prince, M. (n.d.). Pesticide exposure and suicidal ideation in rural communities in Zhejiang province, China. Retrieved May 06, 2016, from


Image Acknowledgements

Yawal2-Amazing Maharashtra.jpg


vandeVeldeWillemY_EnglishShipInAGale_1690Life expectancy for Americans overall has taken a slight but abrupt turn downwards.

This is significant because it marks an end to the continuous increase in American life expectancy since the 1970s.

Part of this change is due to increase in the number of Americans committing suicide.

People killing themselves in the United States has risen to it’s highest level in nearly 30 years.

In 2014, 43,000 Americans took their own lives [].

Globally about 800,000 people die from suicide each year [].

Men are far more prone to suicide than women; in 25,848 American men killed themselves as opposed to 6711 American women in 2005 [].

The suicide rate among women, however, is accelerating.

The most affected group is middle-aged adults.  Since 1999 the suicide rate for this age group has increased 40%.

Since 2007 the rate of completed suicides among 144px-LifelinelogoAmericans aged 40–64 years escalated sharply.

Three recent studies shed light on the reasons for these increases, because the primary factors propelling middle-aged suicide are economic.

The Great Recession of 2007-2009 coincides with the dramatic surge of American suicide.

In “Suicide and the Great Recession of 2007–2009″ (Phillips, 2014) studies suicide reporting collected by states to find that “suicide rates for individuals between the ages of 35 and 64 rose sharply during the first decade of the 21st century, an unusual pattern since suicide rates for this age group have either been stable or declining for decades” and that “Increasing unemployment proves to be a potent explanation for the rise in suicide rates among the middle-aged.”

That studies shows that economic factors did not have the same impacts among the young and the elderly.

A study led by Kathleen Fowler, “Increase in Suicides Associated With Home Eviction and Foreclosure During the US Housing Crisis” (Fowler, 2015), 10023282_5d37f3d84f_bdemonstrated that home foreclosures and evictions are closely correlated with increasing suicides.

Eviction and foreclosure-related suicides doubled from 2005 to 2010.

Taken alone, foreclosure-related suicides, which increased 253% in that five year period.

Hempstead and Phillips used national data on causes of death to confirm the relationship of circumstances related to economic crisis to middle-aged suicides.

They also found that “suffocation is a method more likely to be used in suicides related to job, economic, or legal factors, and its use increased disproportionately among the middle-aged.”

While various means of dispatching oneself remain in use, “suicides using suffocation increased 59.5% among those aged 40–64 years between 2005 and 2010.”

Taken together this new knowledge indicates ways to focus on people in desperate situations.

If suicide among middle-aged and otherwise health people is a public health issue, then our health systems must take economics into account as factors of concern.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Jon facilitates Death Café Corvallis which is open to all and meets weekly in Corvallis Oregon.



Fowler, K.A, Gladden, R.M, et. al. (2015). Increase in Suicides Associated With Home Eviction and Foreclosure During the US Housing Crisis: Findings From 16 National Violent Death Reporting System States, 2005–2010. American Journal of Public Health, 105:2, 311-316.

Hempstead, Phillips (2015). Rising Suicide Among Adults Aged 40–64 Years: The Role of Job and Financial Circumstances. American Journal of  Preventative Medicine, 48(5):491–500.

Phillips, JA and Nugent, C.N. (2014). Suicide and the Great Recession of 2007–2009 The role of economic factors in the 50 U.S. states. Social Science & Medicine 116 (2014).

World Health Organization: Mental Health


Image Acknowledgements




potter_jumpDean Potter jumped off a cliff 2,286m (7,500ft) up and died.  He had done this and other stunts taunting death many times; in the end death won.

Dean is a celebrity among many people who risk their lives to base jump, climb, dive, and engage in other activities known as “extreme sports.”

I have no criticism of those who engage in extreme sports, even when like Dean they hit the wall.

I do think that his death affords an opportunity to explore an interesting distinction – that is: our culture commonly reviles people who kill themselves, but does not revile (and even honors) people who get themselves killed.

Dean Potter got himself killed, but he did not kill himself.  That distinction is at the core of why folks dead people like Dean are treated heroically, even spiritually, in the media while suicides are publicly called out as “cowards.”potter_moon

The legal status of killing oneself has changed in the US from being a felony in all 50 states to currently having no explicit criminal sanction, but will likely invoke State health authority.

Getting oneself killed has never been criminal, so far as I am aware, so that jumping out of an airplane, a cliff, or building is one’s own business, unless it involves trespassing.

People who get away with such activities are not treated publicly as criminals, but as celebrities.

There is something fascinating about people who risk their lives for fun andhoudini_water_torture profit.  In 19th century England attempted suicide was punishable by the death penalty.  At the same time people paid to see performers go over waterfalls in a barrel and for Houdini to court death chained in tank of water.

Perhaps the distinction is based in the intention.  The serious suicide intends to kill themselves and die.  The daredevil is not overtly trying to kill themselves and die, but rather to come close to death and escape its grasp.

Dean Potter did not jump off a cliff because he wanted to die.  He expected to live to tell the tale of his near-death experience.  He spoke of his experience of fear and his intense awareness that he might die.

It by surviving that the daredevil represents a triumph over death.  We honor the risk takers because they show it possible to overcome the fears that we experience.

potter_flight_frontalAccordingly, when the risk ends in death such as Dean Potter, our sense of the risk is verified and we know that he was playing it for real.

I suspect that the more successful we are at preventing death by disease, accidents, and violence, as our natural life spans increase, our value for living will grow.  One effect of this value is that daredevils – those who risk death – will become more special and interesting for us because they will be risking even more.

To be clear – I find daredevils fascinating and followed Dean Potter’s adventures.  I am not criticizing him or other risk takers.

I do think it is relevant to re-think how we classify those who get themselves killed and those who kill themselves.

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