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    Open Source and Mental Health person redox-os.org
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    Okay, time to take an unpopular opinion. I understand this is a painful experience for him, and I’m glad that he’s trying to talk about suicide in the open, but this feels… naive? Like this is the first time seriously thought about it, and shared what he came up with, but portraying it as if he’s speaking from authority. I dunno. I have severe depression, ADHD, ASD, and PTSD, and have struggled with my share of suicidal ideation and parasite thoughts. And a lot of this just felt crass to me. Some samples:

    • This communication was purely technical, regarding the aarch64 port of the Redox kernel. I can’t help but think, that perhaps this was a factor in his decision to choose death.
    • This anti-selection of capable people is a terrifying epidemic. Humanity in general is in desperate need of artificial solutions to long-standing problems. Take climate change, for instance. Out of the 800,000 people each year who committed suicide, on average perhaps more capable than the rest of us, what if a few would have been instrumental in developing fusion power?
    • And yet, we as a society have taken the position that these events are an unstoppable force. That the factors leading to suicide are internal, not external. I refuse to believe this, on principle. We must search out causes and mitigate them, for every problem, even if it ends up being impossible.
    • The insistence that all things be inspectable, is perhaps driven by obsessive compulsive behavior. And those prone to such behavior, often inherit it from other disorders. ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, depression, and other disorders are incredibly common among open source contributors.
    • This had a huge positive influence on my mental health. […] And never since my sophomore year of college have I ever even thought about my own mental health, or had to go to therapy or use medication. All of my stressors were gone.
    • I keep the relationships that bring me joy, and ignore the ones that need work. And at some point, perhaps I forgot to keep in touch with jD91mZM2 and make sure he found the same happiness I have.

    This reminds me of something I’ve seen in some friends who tried to help me without knowing how— boy scouts with rusty pliers. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can easily push people away, and further into depression. It sucks and it’s unfair, but that’s how it is.

    Again, I understand that he’s lost someone who mattered to him, and he’s grappling with the awfulness of it all. But his writing on this, his attempt to fill me with his compassion, leaves me emptier than before.

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      My thought was that there’s nothing to suggest that the author’s friend’s problems, whatever they were, had anything in particular to do with his work on open-source. It’s not even certain that they did in fact die from suicide brought upon by severe depression - that’s perhaps a reasonable inference given the limited amount of information the author has access to, but it’s also very possible that the actual cause of their death had nothing to do with the way society in general or their particular open-source community treats mental health.

      A while ago, during the height of the pandemic lockdowns, a person I was getting to know in an online community died suddenly and unexpectedly of what seemed to have been some kind of drug overdose. The person in question was unhappy about certain things that had gone wrong in their life, many of which were directly related to the pandemic, but they didn’t seem (to me anyway) to be suicidally depressed. They had future plans, albeit ones temporarily derailed by the pandemic, and friends who cared about them.

      One of the tragedies of the finality of death is that no one will ever know if this person I knew succumbed to some kind of mental health episode and deliberately overdosed, or if they tragically died in the process of doing an ordinary, albeit risky, recreational activity. But that’s relevant for thinking practically about how to prevent these sorts of deaths. It’s good to care about the mental well-being of people in your community, but what if the thing that would actually save a life is promoting a general safety principle of always doing drugs with a trip-sitter, and never alone?

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      In this way, suicide is not a display of weakness. In fact, it is a display of extreme conviction and strength. Even with the backdrop of mental illness, there are parts of the brain that are usually unaffected. These parts are so ancient in development, we have little conscious control of them. To attempt suicide requires overcoming conscious desires to survive. To succeed, is to overcome extreme subconscious desires. This means that, for suicide, often the smartest and most capable people are able to succeed.

      This is wrong and I despise this paragraph. It’s not a display of weakness and it’s not a display of strength. Free from external physical factors like someone behind you waiting to chop off your head it’s a display of desperation and loneliness and it shouldn’t be mistaken for anything but. The solution to all of the problems with depression and programming or really any solitary endeavor is:

      1. Tangible rewards that persist in real life.
      2. More human contact and lasting relationships which are based around pointless, inefficient, wastefully, dumb fun.

      I will scream that from the mountain tops until my throat is raw.

      If someone does open source projects for anything that resembles admiration from their peers without getting paid for it I would suggest avoiding it entirely. It’s not healthy.

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        The solution to depression you mention only works for people whom the source of depression is the lack of those things.

        Here is a small, incomplete list of things that cause depression and may not be fixable with goals or friends: Anxiety, Bipolar disorder, chronic pain, PTSD, Schizophrenia…

        For myself, I’ve had every reason to be happy. I’ve had amazing, supportive friends. I’ve had goals and professional success that mattered to me.

        I’ve wanted to die since I was 9 years old. I’ve held a gun to my head too many times to count. I’ve spent my entire life pretending to okay. Until I couldn’t anymore. I had a devastating psychotic break that forever changed who I am. Fortunately, it lead to me finally getting help.

        There are many people who haven’t made it like I have. I tried, but I couldn’t save them and ended up attending their funerals. And while everyone else was so devastated and didn’t understand, I did. I cried my tears and moved on. I hope they found peace.

        Should anyone care to read, a bit of my own story is on my blog: https://kayode.co/blog/4106/living-with-psychosis/

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          that resembles admiration from their peers

          Does “wanting to create useful stuff for other people and being happy when people star it/find it good” fall under that ? Because then I’m fucked.

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          I have ADD, and since I have a kid on the autism spectrum, I probably have a bit of that too. I don’t have the ability or the right to diagnose others … but it seems to me that quite a lot of programmers, and most of the really good ones, have these sorts of traits. They can be quite valuable for the sort of work we do. I don’t know if they’re any more common in open source. I don’t see them as disorders except to the degree they cause us problems. AD(H)D is in my experience difficult for kids and those who take care of them, but becomes a lot more manageable in adolescence.

          Anxiety and depression are unfortunately “comorbid” with ADHD and ASD, which means they’re not intrinsic but often appear along with them. Some of that is probably due to neurochemistry or wiring, some behavioral, some societal. (I’ve got a mild anxiety disorder.)

          Depression is the big one to watch out for. I’ve had a couple people close to me deal with depression. It’s a difficult hole to climb out of, and quite often fatal. I don’t see suicide as “heroic” except maybe for someone with no family or friends; otherwise it’s devastating to those left behind.

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            I probably have a bit of that too. I don’t have the ability or the right to diagnose others … but it seems to me that quite a lot of programmers, and most of the really good ones, have these sorts of traits.

            From this comment I’m not sure what you are tying to infer. I have 2 understandings:

            1. Most of the really good programmers have autistic behaviors;
            2. Most persons with autistic behaviors are really good programmers.

            In both cases, I would says that this is a great bias like saying that all people having autistic behaviors have a super remarkable skill that looks unrealistic(like finding in record time the weekday of a random date 20 years from now).

            This comment is absolutely not to diminish anybody, far from it, but just to highlight that I don’t think there’s any correlation to be drawn here.

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              I meant 1, not 2. And I take back the “most”, because I can’t back it up and it seems an exaggeration in hindsight. But there is definitely a correlation.

              And to be clear, ADHD and ASD are not intrinsically problems. They are different ways of being, sort of outliers. These traits exist because, most likely, it has been evolutionarily useful to a tribe for some people to have them. Hyperfocus, precision, the ability to memorize and understand big things … these are all benefits (with corresponding costs. TANSTAAFL.) But they do predispose people to particular disabilities, like anxiety, depression, addiction, OCD, and I don’t think that’s well enough known.

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                And to be clear, ADHD and ASD are not intrinsically problems. They are different ways of being, sort of outliers. These traits exist because, most likely, it has been evolutionarily useful to a tribe for some people to have them. Hyperfocus, precision, the ability to memorize and understand big things … these are all benefits (with corresponding costs. TANSTAAFL.) But they do predispose people to particular disabilities, like anxiety, depression, addiction, OCD, and I don’t think that’s well enough known.

                I never liked the “mental illness is evolutionary advantageous”, it always made me feel like people were trying to sour grapes me. The reason I choose to believe is that these things happen to us because brains are incredibly complicated and it’s easy for them to go off-track. Nobody ever tries to come up with a reason why having diabetes or cystic fibrosis is evolutionarily advantagous, why are our brains exempt?

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                  Nobody ever tries to come up with a reason why having diabetes or cystic fibrosis is evolutionarily advantagous

                  That’s not quite the case, as they have 😅

                  There are many other examples, the most famous is probably sickle cell disease – which probably evolved several times independently – which is a genetic disorder that’s also advantageous by making it harder for malaria parasites to enter red blood cells. If you remove malaria from the equation then it just becomes a disorder with no advantages at all, as is the case for many people with African ancestry in the US today. Favism is a similar “advantageous disorder” that seems to protect against malaria, with the downside that you may die from eating fava beans and, ironically, anti-malarial drugs. But on balance, that was probably a decent trade-off if you live in a region where malaria is endemic and there weren’t any anti-malarial drugs.

                  There are probably many other examples; people are looking for these things all the time. It’s a very interesting and useful field that expands our understanding of both evolution and the disorders.

                  The exact causes for many mental illnesses are not well understood, but it’s been demonstrated that genetics play a factor in quite a few of them. It makes sense to look at the evolutionary history of this, including possible evolutionary advantages. I absolutely agree it’s far more complicated than merely “this was probably useful in the past” though, as I expanded on in my other reply.

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                  These traits exist because, most likely, it has been evolutionarily useful to a tribe for some people to have them

                  Perhaps; but I’m not so sure.

                  Our modern environment is vastly different from those of our ancestors in almost every conceivable way: what we eat, our entire social structure, our day-to-day activities, etc. The agricultural and industrial revolutions (~12,000 and ~250 years ago) especially were major shifts in how we live our lives.

                  This can mean two things: traits that were advantageous in the past are now no longer advantageous, as you mention, but it can also mean that we haven’t (yet) adapted to a new environment and simply don’t have the traits to deal with it. Were some of the traits you list advantageous in the past? Probably, at least partly. But I suspect that a significant part – if not most of it – is more “never evolved traits to deal with the current environment”.

                  I’m a big fan of evolutionary psychology and I think it can be quite insightful on many topics, but you need to be a little bit careful with it. Not every behaviour is necessarily a trait that is (or was once) useful or has evolved specifically, natural selection doesn’t really work like that; it just uses whatever happens to work in the moment, and as long as it doesn’t directly impede the ability to produce offspring it doesn’t matter. “Useful” only means “useful to reproduce”.

                  • Some traits may have spread just “accidentally” and never really made a difference in people’s lives in the past. Most mammals can synthesise their own vitamin C and will never get scurvy; it’s just humans and a few other primates that can’t. Our not-too-distant ancestors were able to, but lost the trait due to a random mutation and since it wasn’t immediately disadvantageous at the time due to the fruit-rich diet it spread and here we are with our scurvy. No engineer would drop a feature like this, but evolution has no foresight and is a really dumb “fling stuff at a wall and see what sticks” mechanism (okay, actually, some people do seem to work like that 🙃). Maybe ADD was just never an issue in the past because we led much more active lives?

                  • In the past we probably didn’t need to spend long periods of time focused on complex tasks, or a least a lot less. It just so happens that a lot of people are able to do that, which is probably more coincidence than anything else. Not being able to do so just wasn’t a thing you had to cope with. ADD is only a “disorder” in the modern context of having to spend significant time on entire categories of activities that until quite recent just didn’t exist.

                  • We evolved in a fairly specific static social context, which has radically changed, especially in cities. I suspect that quite a bit is just people who struggle to adapt to these new social structures. This just isn’t a situation that ever came up until quite recently, so why select traits to better cope with it?

                  • And then there’s the whole toxic pollutants story which complicates things even more: heavy metals, pesticides, smoking, etc. Remember Alex Jones and his gay frogs? He was right you know; about the gay frogs that is, everything else he said about it was loony, but frogs really are turning in to females due to environmental pollutants (or “gay”, if you will). Humans are not frogs, but also not so special that we’re unaffected by this. See: Flint water crisis for a famous example (and lead was commonly used in the past, and it’s still a problem in many regions and countries, not just Flint).

                  • And some of it really are just an disorders just like all kinds of physical genetic disorders are which clearly aren’t useful in any way. Hell, some genetic disorders even result in sterility.

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                    Absolutely, many great points here. One way I summarize it is that “everyone can be wrong” :-) It’s very hard for to internalize that all of society can be “wrong”, but I’ve found it true in many areas, especially related to physical and mental health. The more I learn and experiment, the more I realize how suboptimal so many things are.

                    • Food and diet. The average weight in the US has climbed by 30+ lbs since the 1960’s, which directly coincides with the rise of industrialized food. This is an enormous change that isn’t really caused by individual choices; it’s more about what’s available to you in the grocery store and restaurants (and now food delivery apps) – which is unsurprisingly all about economics. People from other countries are kinda appalled by our food choices. So if you do the “default thing” here, you’re probably doing it wrong.

                      • There are a lot of fad diets, but I like the Michael Pollan anti-fad of “eat what your grandmother would recognize as food” (not industrialized food, e.g. natural not synthetic fats), and “eat food: not too much, mostly plants” (although I recognize that people have good results on carnivore diets, just because our baseline is so bad)
                    • Sleep. I talk to a lot of people about sleep, and >> 50% of them have issues. We all seem to sleep poorly. This is a luxury, but personally I used an alarm clock for 3 years of my career and didn’t use one for >10 years. Programmers should take advantage of their flexible schedules when possible (unlike being an essential worker). Sleep heals your body and mind. Everyone knows they feel better after good sleep, but it takes some committment to figure out how to do it consistently.

                    • Most surprisingly to me, most humans breathe poorly! https://lobste.rs/s/4oiijk/what_small_change_s_has_made_large_impact#c_7etmiv

                      • Animals in the wild will have this feature selected against, at least if it happens below reproductive age. Humans are more like dogs that were bred poorly :-( This also relates to diet and jaw development.

                    I guess what happens is that these topics are sort of “boring” for younger people – I didn’t follow it in my 20’s, and I was OK, if not optimal. A lot of people care more about their relationships, career, etc. than health. And I suppose that is natural and logical. But I think optimizing the basics of life can help in all sorts of areas, including the ones you care about more, and have compounding effects.

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                    The “not intrinsically problems” is something not dug into often enough. Some disorders or disabilities are disordered and we cannot imagine them being otherwise (extreme depression, full-body paralysis) whereas others are considered disordered by the majority because the person is maladapted to society as it happens to be (ADHD, Aspergers, Deafness, Left-handedness) – we can solve this by trying to “cure” people, by trying to help them adapt and cope with how society happens to be, or by changing society. Which one we choose at which point in history is a fascinating sociological question.

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                  I don’t have the ability or the right to diagnose others … but it seems to me that quite a lot of programmers, and most of the really good ones, have these sorts of traits. They can be quite valuable for the sort of work we do.

                  I recall being young and having my doctor explain that he, too, had OCD, and that it ended up being helpful for him in his career. It’s interesting how some people can redirect “harmful” parts of their personality into something constructive. I think it takes a lot of self-awareness though, which is really tough.

                  I don’t see suicide as “heroic” except maybe for someone with no family or friends; otherwise it’s devastating to those left behind.

                  I don’t think many people do. I always liked the excerpt from infinite jest about jumping from a burning building: it’s easy to yell “don’t jump!” when you’re the guy sitting safe on the sidewalk.

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                  Don’t be afraid to seek help, if you need it. Here are hotlines per country: https://www.opencounseling.com/suicide-hotlines

                  (It‘s always difficult to write about suicide publicly, because of copycat suicide. Please adhere to the advice given to lower the risk to those vulnerable. Thank you!)

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                    (It‘s always difficult to write about suicide publicly, because of copycat suicide. Please adhere to the advice given to lower the risk to those vulnerable. Thank you!)

                    One of my closest friends is the former director of the SF suicide hotline. She told me once that copycat suicide is overhyped: it only really “happens” when both 1) the person commits suicide in a specific and replicable way, and 2) is somehow portraying the suicide as good or noble. We can talk about it, and share the awfulness of our experiences, without inadvertently killing others.

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                    There’s this inherent assumption that suicide is bad.

                    But if the person doesn’t want to live anymore, why shouldn’t she be able to not? Suffering is inherent to living, why should we not allow people to opt out?

                    How could such a prolific contributor, not just to Redox but to many projects, feel that death was preferable to life? This was a person who was boundlessly competent, and who seemed until recently to have a good handle on their life.

                    Again is the inherent assumption. “How could somebody who was boundlessly competent prefer death over life??”. Even the language is rigged. mental health. You MUST be sick to consider anything except living forever to be the only choice. Instinct controls them and it’s understandable but that doesn’t justify trying to control others. People never choose to start living. They should at least be able to choose to stop. And we should respect that.

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                      As someone who has struggled with suicide (I’m bipolar), I can not agree with this. Many people I’ve known are grateful other people intervened.

                      Many people attempt suicide from a place of irrationality. It is not a carefully considered decision but a moment of overwhelming hopelessness.

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                        It would be easier to understand your points if you mentioned [objections to suicide, as perceived by you] and discussed points & counterpoints to those objections. As your comment reads now, it doesn’t look well-researched, as if you didn’t consider putting any worth to the “inherent assumption”.

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                          This is basically a third rail, but the place we want to be in the end, is that all deaths are suicide, because the person is just done. They’ve done what they wanted to (and could), seen what they felt they needed to see, and just don’t feel like it any more.

                          Edit: this is a magic fairy land without accidents, violence, old age and cancer (or with backups).