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Handwritten Letters Might Help Prevent Suicide Attempts, Study Finds

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Everyone enjoys getting a personal, handwritten letter. But the personal missive may be especially beneficial to people at risk of suicide, a new study finds. The research, published in PLOS Medicine, followed a pilot study of a suicide prevention method called the Attempted Suicide Short Intervention Program at a hospital in Switzerland. As part of the method, patients received follow-up letters from therapists they had seen after being admitted to the hospital for attempting suicide. 

A total of 120 patients took part in the pilot study, which involved seeing a therapist for three sessions to discuss their suicide attempt and mental health. Afterward, half of the patients received mail from their therapist. The handwritten letters arrived once every three months during the first year after the patients were released from the hospital, and every six months the next year. While the notes mostly contained boiler-plate advice on warning signs and staying safe, they also included a few personalized statements from the therapists. 

The technique seems to have had a broad impact on the patients who received those letters, compared to a control group that just went through post-hospitalization therapy. Only five patients in the letter-receiving group attempted suicide over the 24 months of the study, while 41 in the control group did. One person in each group died from suicide.  

The personalized letters may have given patients a reminder that someone cared about them, as one of the study’s authors told The Washington Post.

Despite public health efforts, “suicide has proven stubbornly difficult to understand, to predict, and to prevent,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and many people at high risk for suicide aren’t getting the treatment they need. In the U.S., suicide is the 10th leading cause of death (and the second leading cause of death for people 25–34), and far more people attempt suicide than die from it (as many as 25 times more in the case of youth, and 12 times more overall). So an 80 percent reduced risk of attempted suicide, as seen in this study, is a pretty big deal.

While this study had some limitations, such as patients dropping out, and more pilots around the world will be necessary (globally, 800,000 people kill themselves every year), it’s definitely a hopeful sign. 

And here’s a reminder that if you are in distress, you should make a free, confidential call to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

[h/t The Washington Post]

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Beyond the Label: How to Pick the Right Medicines For Your Cold and Flu Symptoms
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The average household spends an annual total of $338 on various over-the-counter medicines, with consumers making around 26 pharmacy runs each year, according to 2015 data from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. To save cash and minimize effort (here's why you'd rather be sleeping), the Cleveland Clinic recommends avoiding certain cold and flu products, and selecting products containing specific active ingredients.

Since medicine labels can be confusing (lots of people likely can’t remember—let alone spell—words like cetirizine, benzocaine, or dextromethorphan), the famous hospital created an interactive infographic to help patients select the right product for them. Click on your symptom, and you’ll see ingredients that have been clinically proven to relieve runny or stuffy noses, fevers, aches, and coughs. Since every medicine is different, you’ll also receive safety tips regarding dosage levels, side effects, and the average duration of effectiveness.

Next time you get sick, keep an eye out for these suggested elements while comparing products at the pharmacy. In the meantime, a few pro tips: To avoid annoying side effects, steer clear of multi-symptom products if you think just one ingredient will do it for you. And while you’re at it, avoid nasal sprays with phenylephrine and cough syrups with guaifenesin, as experts say they may not actually work. Cold and flu season is always annoying—but it shouldn’t be expensive to boot.

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Why You Might Not Want to Order Tea or Coffee On Your Next Flight
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A cup of tea or coffee at 40,000 feet may sound like a great way to give yourself an extra energy boost during a tiring trip, but it might be healthier to nap away your fatigue—or at least wait until hitting ground to indulge in a caffeine fix. Because, in addition to being tepid and watery, plane brew could be teeming with germs and other harmful life forms, according to Business Insider.

Multiple studies and investigations have taken a closer look at airplane tap water, and the results aren’t pretty—or appetizing. In 2002, The Wall Street Journal conducted a study that looked at water samples taken from 14 different flights from 10 different airlines. Reporters discovered “a long list of microscopic life you don’t want to drink, from Salmonella and Staphylococcus to tiny insect eggs," they wrote.

And they added, "Worse, contamination was the rule, not the exception: Almost all of the bacteria levels were tens, sometimes hundreds, of times above U.S. government limits."

A 2004 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that water supplies on 15 percent of 327 national and international commercial aircrafts were contaminated to varying degrees [PDF]. This all led up to the 2011 Aircraft Drinking Water Rule, an EPA initiative to make airlines clean up. But in 2013, an NBC investigation found that at least one out of every 10 commercial U.S. airplanes still had issues with water contamination.

Find out how airplane water gets so gross, and why turning water into coffee or tea isn’t enough to kill residual germs by watching Business Insider’s video below.

[h/t Business Insider]

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