‘Grasping at straws’: Farm advocates concur more resources needed to combat high suicide rates

Psychologist Michael Rosmann said that whenever he is home at his family’s farm in western Iowa he is taking calls or answering emails from farmers asking for help or counseling.

He specializes in behavioral health for farmers and said he has received more requests for assistance in recent months than the last three decades.

“My phone and my email have just been completely filled for the last six months. I work virtually seven days a week if I’m around the phone is always going email is always coming,” he told ABC News.

The calls are part of a critical issue faced by farmers, their profession faces the highest overall rate of suicide in the nation — much higher than the number of suicides in the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

PHOTO: Debbie Weingarten and Michael Rosmann during a visit to his farm in Harlan, Iowa, September 2017. Audra Mulkern/Female Farmer Project
Debbie Weingarten and Michael Rosmann during a visit to his farm in Harlan, Iowa, September 2017.

Debbie Weingarten reached out for help four years ago when she was running a vegetable farm in Arizona. She was a first-generation farmer and said that even without the pressure of maintaining a family farm she felt depressed and anxious about the possibility that they would lose money or crops.

“I felt like the risk that farmers undertake to produce food for eaters is not spread out fairly across the food system, so that’s squarely on the backs of farmers,” she told ABC News.

She said couldn’t find anyone to talk to online who understood her situation until she found a program run by Rosmann. The website said it lost funding a few years before but she called anyway.

“I was grasping at straws,” she said.

Rosmann picked up the phone.

Weingarten said she left farming in 2014 but still writes about agriculture. She spent five years researching and reporting a story about the suicide rate among farmers that was published in The Guardian last year.

Farmers in industries that have faced falling commodity prices and international trade disputes have faced additional economic pressure in recent years and farming experts and industry leaders say the uncertainty around the nearly $400 billion dollar Farm Bill adds additional stress for farmers and their families.

“Farmers were going through a very stressful winter weather-wise, a cold and tough winter, and on top of that we are into our fourth year of low milk prices, below the cost of production, and that has been creating a lot of stress,” Robert Wellington, a senior vice president of Agri-Mark Dairy Farmer cooperative, told ABC News on the phone Thursday.

PHOTO: Dairy cows on a Iowa farm are pictured in this undated stock photo.STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
Dairy cows on a Iowa farm are pictured in this undated stock photo.

On average, Wellington estimated, small and medium dairy farmers have struggled through four years of milk prices that are 10 to 30 percent below the cost of production.

His group sent a letter to members in January forecasting yet another year of low milk prices. In the letter, they included phone numbers for people dealing with financial and emotional stress and a suicide hotline.

The farm bill has traditionally been bipartisan legislation to maintain subsidies, crop insurance programs, and livestock disaster programs but there has been dramatic debate and delays in this year’s bill due to proposals to cut funding from food stamp programs that make up a huge portion of the money allocated by the bill every five years.

This draft of this year’s farm bill in the House would have also provided funding for crisis hotlines and other programs to provide mental health help to farmers.

“Our farmers who feed the world are feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders,” one of the sponsors of that bipartisan provision Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn. said on the House floor ahead of the Farm Bill vote.

The House rejected the proposed bill.

In a 2016 report, the Centers for Disease Control found that about 84 out of every 100,000 people in the farming, fishing and forestry industries died by suicide in 2012, the most recent data available. The suicide rate for the general population was about 12 out of every 100,000 people that year, according to CDC data.

PHOTO: A farm in Iowa is pictured in this undated stock photo. STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
A farm in Iowa is pictured in this undated stock photo.

That study included data from 17 states but did not include data from states like Iowa, Texas, or California where agriculture is a major part of the economy.

The report said that the high rate among farmers could be due to the potential to lose money in the business, as well as social isolation, lack of mental health services, or access to lethal means.

Rosmann is a psychologist and adjunct professor at the University of Iowa who specializes in behavioral health for farmers. He said farming is physically and emotionally stressful but that the current health system does not deal with all of the physical and mental risks for farmers.

“The bigger picture is that we have not attended to the behavioral well being of the agricultural population the way we have to the general population’s need for behavioral health,” Rosmann told ABC News.

He said that farmers have a unique psychology that drives them to work hard but that some factors are out of their control, like policy, weather, or commodity prices, resulting in a very stressful situation, adding that there has been increased economic stress on farmers in recent years and that they think they’re being economically marginalized.

Rosmann said farmers have a strong bond to their land and their farming operation and that on a psychological scale the stress of a life event like losing a family’s farm can be just as traumatic as losing a child.

“It’s almost always because of the loss of livelihood that people do such dramatic things as taking their lives,” he said.

Rosmann said he strongly supports a provision in the farm bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., to provide more money for states to provide mental health services like crisis hotlines for farmers and ranchers.

He said that some states offer resources like a crisis hotline but they need a stronger network of resources and a national center to help with the problem. In Minnesota the state employs one rural mental health counselor to help roughly 100,000 farmers, according to MinnPost.com.

Earlier in May the president of the National Farmers Union, Roger Johnson, wrote to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging him to proactively address what he called “the farmer suicide crisis.”

PHOTO: The U.S. House of Representatives votes down a farm bill, 198-213, on May 18, 2018.C-SPAN
The U.S. House of Representatives votes down a farm bill, 198-213, on May 18, 2018.

“Farming is a high-stress occupation,” Johnson wrote in his letter. “Due to the prolonged downturn in the farm economy, many farmers are facing even greater stress. USDA’s national reach uniquely positions the Department to assist farmers and ranchers during times of crisis. We urge you to leverage your vision for collaboration across USDA and the entire federal government to develop a response to the farm suicide crisis.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced a bipartisan bill on the issue of farmer suicide that would mandate more spending on mental health resources in rural areas. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., also introduced a bipartisan bill earlier this year to provide mental health services for farmers and ranchers.

Emmer’s bill was included in the version of the farm bill that was voted down in the House. The Senate’s farm bill has not yet been released.

The current farm bill is set to expire in September the most recent Farm Bill failed 198-213.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 free, confidential support. The organization Farm Aid also offers a hotline for farmers in need of emergency help and a directory of local resources.

Suicide Attempts and Immune Response

Suicide kills more than 40,000 people in the United States every year, an estimated 90% of them with a diagnosable severe psychiatric disease. Yet little is known about what causes some individuals to take their own lives, limiting the ability to reduce the number of such deaths.
Findings from a new study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research suggest that identifying blood-based antibodies may offer a route to more personalized assessment and treatment of suicide risk and, ultimately, to more effective suicide-attempt prevention. The study compared antibody levels to viruses known to attack and inflame the nervous system in psychiatric patients with a history of suicide attempt and patients who had not attempted suicide.
Findings
In the study by Faith Dickerson and colleagues, 162 patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression were assessed for suicide-attempt history and antibodies to neurotropic infectious agents including Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii). All the patients were in psychiatric treatment and receiving medication during the study.
Among the participants, statistically significant correlations were found for:

  • Lifetime history of suicide attempt and the level of antibodies to T. gondii
  • Lifetime history of suicide attempt and the level of antibodies to a common herpes virus (cytomegalovirus or “CMV”)
  • Lifetime history of suicide attempt and current cigarette smoking.

Individuals with antibodies to both T. gondii and CMV were found to be at heightened risk of attempting suicide, suggesting that exposure to both viruses might be additive, according to the authors. Individuals with antibodies to both viruses were also more likely to have made multiple suicide attempts.
No statistical correlations were found for:

  • The deadliness of suicide attempt and the level of antibodies to either virus
  • Patient age at time of assessment, gender, race, diagnostic group, clinical care setting, cognitive score, psychiatric symptom score, or any of the medication variables

Implications
Suicide rates in the United States have been rising since the mid-2000s, with more individuals per 100,000 population killing themselves than previously. The 21stCentury Cures Act and other federal, state and local initiatives, as well as many national nonprofits, have focused on reducing suicide risk, but the task remains challenging without clarity about the underlying causes.
While “the mechanisms by which inflammation may be associated with increased suicide risk are not known with certainty,” the authors of this study wrote, “the successful identification of blood-based antibody markets would represent an advance in the prediction and prevention of suicide attempts” among psychiatric patients.
“Suicide, for which a previous suicide attempt is the greatest risk factor, is a major cause of death worldwide and is highly prevalent in patients with serious mental illness,” they conclude. “Unfortunately, the ability to predict suicide remains limited and no reliable biological markers are available. The identification of blood-based antibody markers should provide for more personalized methods for the assessment and treatment, and ultimately prevention, of suicide attempts in individuals with serious mental illnesses.”

Far from respecting civil liberties, legal obstacles to treating the mentally ill limit or destroy the liberty of the person

By Herschel Hardin
The Vancouver Sun July 22, 1993
Republished with permission

Herschel Hardin is an author and consultant. He was a member of the board of directors of the Civil Liberties Association from 1965 to 1974, and has been involved in the defense of liberty and free speech through his work with Amnesty International. One of his children has schizophrenia.

The public is growing increasingly confused by how we treat the mentally ill. More and more, the mentally ill are showing up in the streets, badly in need of help. Incidents of illness-driven violence are being reported regularly, incidents which common sense tells us could easily be avoided. And this is just the visible tip of the greater tragedy – of many more sufferers deteriorating in the shadows and often, committing suicide.

People asked in perplexed astonishment: ” Why don’t we provide the treatment, when the need is so obvious?” Yet every such cry of anguish is met with the rejoinder that unrequested intervention is an infringement of civil liberties. This stops everything.

Civil Liberties, after all, are a fundamental part of our democratic society. The rhetoric and lobbying results in legislative obstacles to timely and adequate treatment, and the psychiatric community is cowed by the anti-treatment climate produced. Here is the Kafkaesque irony: Far from respecting civil liberties, legal obstacles to treatment limit or destroy the liberty of the person. The best example concerns schizophrenia.

The most chronic and disabling of the major mental illnesses, schizophrenia involves a chemical imbalance in the brain, alleviated in most cases by medication. Symptoms can include confusion; inability to concentrate, to think abstractly, or to plan; thought disorder to the point of raving babble; delusions and hallucinations; and variations such as paranoia. Untreated, the disease is ravaging. Its victims cannot work or care for themselves. They may think they are other people – usually historical or cultural characters such as Jesus Christ or John Lennon – or otherwise lose their sense of identity. They find it hard or impossible to live with others, and they may become hostile and threatening. They can end up living in the most degraded, shocking circumstances, voiding in their own clothes, living in rooms overrun by rodents – or in the streets. They often deteriorate physically, losing weight and suffering corresponding malnutrition, rotting teeth and skin sores. They become particularly vulnerable to injury and abuse.

Tormented by voices, or in the grip of paranoia, they may commit suicide or violence upon others. Becoming suddenly threatening, or bearing a weapon because of delusionally perceived need for self-protection, the innocent schizophrenic may be shot down by police. Depression from the illness, without adequate stability — often as the result of premature release — is also a factor in suicides. Such victims are prisoners of their illness. Their personalities are subsumed by their distorted thoughts. They cannot think for themselves and cannot exercise any meaningful liberty. The remedy is treatment — most essentially, medication. In most cases, this means involuntary treatment because people in the throes of their illness have little or no insight into their own condition. If you think you are Jesus Christ or an avenging angel, you are not likely to agree that you need to go to the hospital.

Anti-treatment advocates insist that involuntary committal should be limited to cases of imminent physical danger — instances where a person is going to do bodily harm to himself or to somebody else. But the establishment of such “dangerousness” usually comes too late — a psychotic break or loss of control, leading to violence, happens suddenly. And all the while, the victim suffers the ravages of the illness itself, the degradation of life, the tragic loss of individual potential.

The anti-treatment advocates say: “If that’s how people want to live (babbling on a street corner, in rags), or if they wish to take their own lives, they should be allowed to exercise their free will. To interfere — with involuntary commital — is to deny them their civil liberties.” Whether or not anti-treatment advocates actually voice such opinions, they seem content to sacrifice a few lives here and there to uphold an abstract doctrine. Their intent, if noble, has a chilly, Stalinist justification — the odd tragedy along the way is warranted to ensure the greater good. The notion that this doctrine is misapplied escapes them. They merely deny the nature of the illness. Health (Official) Elizabeth Cull appears to have fallen into the trap of this juxtaposition. She has talked about balancing the need for treatment and civil liberties, as if they were opposites. It is with such a misconceptualization that anti-treatment lobbyists promote legislation loaded with administative and judicial obstacles to involuntary committal.

The result, …will be a certain number of illness-caused suicides every year, just as surely as if those people were lined up annually in front of a firing squad. Add to that the broader ravages of the illness, and keep in mind the manic depressives who also have a high suicide rate. A doubly ironic downstream effect: the inappropriate use of criminal prosectuion against the mentally ill, and the attendant cruelty of commital to jails and prisons rather than hospitals. Corrections officials once estimated that almost one third of adult offenders and close to half of the young offenders in the correction system have a diagnosable mental disorder.

Clinical evidence has now indicated that allowing schizophrenia to progress to a psychotic break lowers the possible level of future recovery, and subsequent psychotic breaks lower that level further – in other words, the cost of withholding treatment is permanent damage. Meanwhile, bureaucratic road-blocks, such as time consuming judicial hearings, are passed off under the cloak of “due process” – as if the illness were a crime with which one is being charged and hospitalization for treatment is punishment. Such cumbersome restraints ignore the existing adequate safeguards – the requirement for two independent assessments and a review panel to check against over-long stays. How can such degradation and death — so much inhumanity — be justified in the name of civil liberties? It cannot. The opposition to involuntary committal and treatment betrays profound misunderstanding of the principle of civil liberties. Medication can free victims from their illness — free them from the Bastille of their psychosis — and restore their dignity, their free will and the meaningful exercise of their liberties.

The Vancouver Sun July 22, 1993

Reprinted with permission. Copyright 1993 The Vancouver Sun. All rights reserved.

Most Y’all Missed This ’13 Reasons Why’ Detail & It Sheds Insight Into Alex’s Story

If you haven’t finished 13 Reasons Why, exit out of this post right now because I am about to end all debates about the last episode.

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, 13 Reasons Why is proving to be one of the best and most socially aware young adult series in recent memory. It accurately shows what high school parties are like, using the kind of language high schoolers truly use (yes, F-bombs come out in droves), and not pulling any punches on more sensitive material. From almost everyone who has seen the show (many critics excluded), it is a poignant, incredibly well-done series that hits home pretty hard.

Seeing as it’s been several weeks since the show aired, you’ve probably either finished the series or got most of the way through it, which is what brought you here. It was a compelling show that made you want to get to the end just because of what it was talking about. For the same reasons, you probably had a hard time finishing it. However, if you weren’t paying enough attention while watching, you’ll not have noticed this one moment that changes the show’s entire narrative completely.

'13 Reasons Why' [Credit: Netflix]
’13 Reasons Why’ [Credit: Netflix]

It’s All In The Little Details

Unlike Clay Jensen, I’m not going to drag this out and make you wait 13 hours to know the whole story of what happened to Hannah Baker. During the 13th and final episode of the series, the Baker family finally has their deposition against the school. Several of the students from the tapes are called in and we get to see a few of their recordings as they’re sitting there being interviewed.

If you look to the bottom left corner of the screen, you’ll see the date that the tapes were recorded. Taking into account that the show was released on March 31st, 2017, this date changes everything about the show.

Zach Dempsey's deposition. '13 Reasons Why' [Credit: Netflix]
Zach Dempsey’s deposition. ’13 Reasons Why’ [Credit: Netflix]

November 10th, 2017: None of this has happened yet. OK, well some of it has.

The Story So Far

Hannah went to the park with Justin Foley, sparking that ill-fated picture of her on the slide. Hannah met Jessica Davis and Alex Standall; they started going to Monet’s every day to get hot chocolate and whatever the hell Alex was drinking. The three of them had their falling out due to Alex’s stupid list. Hannah and Courtney Crimson found out that Tyler Down was Hannah’s stalker. Courtney painted Hannah as a lesbian to salvage her own reputation. Hannah went on a pretty crummy date with Marcus Cole, after which Zach tried to make things better, but it ended poorly for both Hannah and him.

The rest of it probably hasn’t happened yet, however. Now, I’m not entirely sure about whether Ryan Shaver’s tape happened, but the rest of it certainly hasn’t.

This means that Bryce Walker hadn’t raped Jessica, Sheri Holland hadn’t knocked over the stop sign that led to Jeff Atkins’s fatal car crash, Clay and Hannah hadn’t hooked up — resulting in Hannah being unable to show her true feelings for him out of past traumas, Bryce hadn’t raped Hannah yet, and Mr. Porter hadn’t told Hannah to just let go of what happened to her and act like it never happened.

Giving life one last chance. '13 Reasons Why' [Credit: Netflix]
Giving life one last chance. ’13 Reasons Why’ [Credit: Netflix]

But the biggest, most important takeaway from knowing this is that Hannah is still here. We still have the chance to help her and prevent this from happening. We can still save Hannah. There is still time.

When it comes to suicide, at any age, those closest to the victim wished they had seen the signs and had the time to stop it. This theme is very evident throughout the series, as every character wishes they had only known what could cause Hannah to want to end her life. As the show points out, it can be obvious that someone is depressed and looking to find a way to put an end to their pain (evident from both Hannah and Alex). However, it is difficult to see it in those closest to you, which is why everyone was so blindsided by what had happened.

The biggest message that the show is trying to push is that we don’t know what’s going on in each other’s lives. We just have to be there for each other and support each other not matter what rumors we hear. There’s too much hate in the world, especially in high school. We need to overcome it and learn to appreciate each other for who we are.

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 9.52.51 AM
A worthy share for social media! Don’t forget to tag @GriffAmbitions

We often don’t know if someone is depressed, no matter how evident the signs may be. However, if we can be there for each other, we can prevent something like this from happening again. And, in the case of Hannah Baker, we can prevent it from happening altogether.

With this in mind, it’s interesting to note that Jay Asher’s original ending included Hannah Baker actually surviving her suicide attempt. This original ending was actually included in the 10th anniversary edition of the novel released last December. Which was coincidentally released mere months before the Netflix series aired.

Now I’m not saying that’s suspicious or anything, but maybe, just maybe, it was released around the same time as the Netflix series with the intent to continue the series for a second season – or maybe in another format altogether. Assuming the series does well (as most Netflix series do) and with this small little detail snuck in the finale, the creators could easily turn around and say that Hannah never did kill herself and instead give us a sequel following Hannah and company in a plotline in which she’s still alive.

State Specific Suicide Hotlines

Suicide Hotlines in the United States

Please click on your state below:

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young girl on reception at the psychologist

Depression and Suicide

Untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide.

You are not depressed when you feel sad for a day or two; you are depressed when you experience a prolonged period of sadness that interferes with your ability to function. Depression occurs because of an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. It is an illness. And it is highly treatable.

Unfortunately, many people do not receive treatment for depression, and thus are at risk for suicide.

If you or have some of these symptoms below, please seek help immediately:

  • Feeling sad for two or more weeks
  • Feeling lethargic — feeling like you have no energy
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Feeling worthless
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling helpless
  • Feeling negative or pessimisstic
  • Losing interest in activities that you previously enjoyed
  • Crying frequently
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Neglecting personal appearance
  • Feeling angry
  • Feeling guilty
  • Unable to think clearly
  • Unable to make decisions

Basically, if “the blues” do not go away after two weeks, you probably have depression. And you need to get treatment. So please make an appointment with a medical doctor and a therapist so you may be properly evaluated. Many people do not think of going to a medical doctor when they are depressed, but it is an important step because there could be a physical problem beside the chemical imbalance that is causing the depression. And please get into therapy. If the therapist believes that you need medication he or she can refer you to someone.

Get help now.

Get treatment now.

Many people who have depression do not get help. So please, do the right thing and make those appointments.

Again, you may need to take medication. So, please leave that option open. People take medication all of the time for a variety of ailments, why should taking medication for depression be any different?

And please understand that when you are depressed that you affect the people around you. So get help for your loved ones as well as yourself. If you need to take medication, then you should do so. You can ask the doctor and therapist all of the questions that you can think of. And you can do your own research. You can seek a second and even a third opinion. But the bottom line is that you need to do what is necessary to get better.

You might believe that you could never become suicidal, but protracted, untreated depression will make almost anyone suicidal, including you. So take action now. If you are depressed, make those appointments immediately.

If finances are holding you back, then look for low-priced clinics in your community. Call 1-800-SUICIDE for referrals.

If you are not depressed but know someone who is, please make sure that he or she receives help. Remember that untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide, so immediate action is required.

Take action–

Force yourself to take action.

People care about you.

So please take action now.

And please read the following articles for additional information about depression.

People With Depression Cannot “Snap Out Of It”

“It’s Not That Bad” is the Wrong Thing to Say to Someone Who is Depressed or Suicidal

I Think I Have Depression What Should I do?

Depression Information

Depression and Exercise

Depression and Your Diet

Morbid Obesity, Depression, and Suicide

Depression and Vitamins

Depression Distorts Your Thinking

Depression and Dietary Supplements

Brain Images Show Different Therapies for Depression Affect Different Areas of the Brain

Treating Depression with SSRIs

Why do Antidepressants Cause Side Effects in Some People and Not in Others?

Patients on Antidepressants Need to be Monitored Very Closely During Their First Month of Treatment

What You Need to Know if Your Child or Teen May Need Antidepressants

Are Antidepressants Safe for Children? Can They Cause Suicide?

Antidepressants Help Protect Hippocampus, an Important Brain Structure

Many Pregnant Women Suffer From Depression; Few Get Treatment; A Suicide Risk

Seniors Need to Stay Active to Fight Depression

Australian Doctors Help Reduce Elderly Suicide Rate By Recognizing and Treating Depression

Vascular Depression in the Elderly; A Suicide Risk

Study Shows Brain Difference in Those With Treatment-Resistant Depression

MRI Scans May Temporarily Relieve Depression; May be Used on People Who are Suicidal

When Will My Depression End?

If you are suicidal TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION

Call 1-800-273-8255
Available 24 hours everyday

Guide for Callers in Suicidal Ideation

If you ever receive a phone call from someone who is suicidal, there are several things that you will want to do:

Listen attentively to everything that the caller says, and try to learn as much as possible about what the caller’s problems are.

Allow the caller to cry, scream or swear. Suicidal feelings are very powerful, so let them come out.

Stay calm, and be supportive, sympathetic, and kind.

Do not be judgmental or invalidate the person’s feelings. Let the caller express emotions without negative feedback.

After you have a good understanding of the caller’s problems, summarize the problems back to him or her. This helps to preclude misunderstandings and demonstrates to the caller that you are being attentive.

Then ask the caller, “Are you feeling so bad that you are thinking about suicide?”

If the answer is yes, ask, “Have you thought about how you would do it?”

If the answer is yes, ask, “Do you have what you need to do it?”

If the answer is yes, ask, “Have you thought about when you would do it?”

Here are those four important questions in abbreviated form:

  1. Suicidal?
  2. Method?
  3. Have what you need?
  4. When?

The reason for asking these questions is to assess the level of risk of suicide for the caller. If the caller answers yes to three or four questions, the risk is very high, and immediate treatment is necessary. Try to get the individual to call 911 or go to an emergency room.

If the caller answered yes to one or two questions, try to determine if immediate treatment is necessary. If you deem that it is, try to get the individual to call 911 or go to an emergency room.

At a minimum, you should try to get the individual to see a therapist and a medical doctor as soon as possible. Gently explain that he or she probably has clinical depression or something similar and thus has a chemical imbalance in the brain, and that this is a very common condition, but definitely needs to be treated.

Only let the person go when you are sure that he or she is not in immediate danger of suicide. And, again, before you let the person go, emphasize that it is imperative that treatment is received. It is not an option, it is a requirement.

CHECKOUT THIS EXTENSIVE RESOURCE AND CONSIDER PRINTING A COPY AND KEEPING IT NEARY BY YOUR PHONE

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0Sd6mo_6OBnQnJGQjE3ZnliZ0U/view?usp=sharing