post this month, Mr. Zuckerberg said it was “deeply illogical” that the company would give priority to harmful content because Facebook’s advertisers don’t want to buy ads on a platform that spreads hate and misinformation.

“At the most basic level, I think most of us just don’t recognize the false picture of the company that is being painted,” he wrote.

When Mr. Zuckerberg founded Facebook 17 years ago in his Harvard University dorm room, the site’s mission was to connect people on college campuses and bring them into digital groups with common interests and locations.

Growth exploded in 2006 when Facebook introduced the News Feed, a central stream of photos, videos and status updates posted by people’s friends. Over time, the company added more features to keep people interested in spending time on the platform.

In 2009, Facebook introduced the Like button. The tiny thumbs-up symbol, a simple indicator of people’s preferences, became one of the social network’s most important features. The company allowed other websites to adopt the Like button so users could share their interests back to their Facebook profiles.

That gave Facebook insight into people’s activities and sentiments outside of its own site, so it could better target them with advertising. Likes also signified what users wanted to see more of in their News Feeds so people would spend more time on Facebook.

Facebook also added the groups feature, where people join private communication channels to talk about specific interests, and pages, which allowed businesses and celebrities to amass large fan bases and broadcast messages to those followers.

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, has said that research on users’ well-being led to investments in anti-bullying measures on Instagram.

Yet Facebook cannot simply tweak itself so that it becomes a healthier social network when so many problems trace back to core features, said Jane Lytvynenko, a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy Shorenstein Center, who studies social networks and misinformation.

“When we talk about the Like button, the share button, the News Feed and their power, we’re essentially talking about the infrastructure that the network is built on top of,” she said. “The crux of the problem here is the infrastructure itself.”

As Facebook’s researchers dug into how its products worked, the worrisome results piled up.

In a July 2019 study of groups, researchers traced how members in those communities could be targeted with misinformation. The starting point, the researchers said, were people known as “invite whales,” who sent invitations out to others to join a private group.

These people were effective at getting thousands to join new groups so that the communities ballooned almost overnight, the study said. Then the invite whales could spam the groups with posts promoting ethnic violence or other harmful content, according to the study.

Another 2019 report looked at how some people accrued large followings on their Facebook pages, often using posts about cute animals and other innocuous topics. But once a page had grown to tens of thousands of followers, the founders sold it. The buyers then used the pages to show followers misinformation or politically divisive content, according to the study.

As researchers studied the Like button, executives considered hiding the feature on Facebook as well, according to the documents. In September 2019, it removed Likes from users’ Facebook posts in a small experiment in Australia.

The company wanted to see if the change would reduce pressure and social comparison among users. That, in turn, might encourage people to post more frequently to the network.

But people did not share more posts after the Like button was removed. Facebook chose not to roll the test out more broadly, noting, “Like counts are extremely low on the long list of problems we need to solve.”

Last year, company researchers also evaluated the share button. In a September 2020 study, a researcher wrote that the button and so-called reshare aggregation units in the News Feed, which are automatically generated clusters of posts that have already been shared by people’s friends, were “designed to attract attention and encourage engagement.”

But gone unchecked, the features could “serve to amplify bad content and sources,” such as bullying and borderline nudity posts, the researcher said.

That’s because the features made people less hesitant to share posts, videos and messages with one another. In fact, users were three times more likely to share any kind of content from the reshare aggregation units, the researcher said.

One post that spread widely this way was an undated message from an account called “The Angry Patriot.” The post notified users that people protesting police brutality were “targeting a police station” in Portland, Ore. After it was shared through reshare aggregation units, hundreds of hate-filled comments flooded in. It was an example of “hate bait,” the researcher said.

A common thread in the documents was how Facebook employees argued for changes in how the social network worked and often blamed executives for standing in the way.

In an August 2020 internal post, a Facebook researcher criticized the recommendation system that suggests pages and groups for people to follow and said it can “very quickly lead users down the path to conspiracy theories and groups.”

“Out of fears over potential public and policy stakeholder responses, we are knowingly exposing users to risks of integrity harms,” the researcher wrote. “During the time that we’ve hesitated, I’ve seen folks from my hometown go further and further down the rabbit hole” of conspiracy theory movements like QAnon and anti-vaccination and Covid-19 conspiracies.

The researcher added, “It has been painful to observe.”

Reporting was contributed by Davey Alba, Sheera Frenkel, Cecilia Kang and Ryan Mac.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

How Facebook Relies on Accenture to Scrub Toxic Content

In 2010, Accenture scored an accounting contract with Facebook. By 2012, that had expanded to include a deal for moderating content, particularly outside the United States.

That year, Facebook sent employees to Manila and Warsaw to train Accenture workers to sort through posts, two former Facebook employees involved with the trip said. Accenture’s workers were taught to use a Facebook software system and the platform’s guidelines for leaving content up, taking it down or escalating it for review.

What started as a few dozen Accenture moderators grew rapidly.

By 2015, Accenture’s office in the San Francisco Bay Area had set up a team, code-named Honey Badger, just for Facebook’s needs, former employees said. Accenture went from providing about 300 workers in 2015 to about 3,000 in 2016. They are a mix of full-time employees and contractors, depending on the location and task.

The firm soon parlayed its work with Facebook into moderation contracts with YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and others, executives said. (The digital content moderation industry is projected to reach $8.8 billion next year, according to Everest Group, roughly double the 2020 total.) Facebook also gave Accenture contracts in areas like checking for fake or duplicate user accounts and monitoring celebrity and brand accounts to ensure they were not flooded with abuse.

After federal authorities discovered in 2016 that Russian operatives had used Facebook to spread divisive posts to American voters for the presidential election, the company ramped up the number of moderators. It said it would hire more than 3,000 people — on top of the 4,500 it already had — to police the platform.

“If we’re going to build a safe community, we need to respond quickly,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in a 2017 post.

The next year, Facebook hired Arun Chandra, a former Hewlett Packard Enterprise executive, as vice president of scaled operations to help oversee the relationship with Accenture and others. His division is overseen by Ms. Sandberg.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

What It’s Like to Be in India’s Covid-19 Crisis

Infections are soaring. So are deaths. Whole cities are under lockdown. And the government seems powerless to help.

India is in the grip of a coronavirus crisis. Experts agree that the spread is probably even worse than the official statistics suggest. In many parts of the country, hospital beds, supplemental oxygen and other vital supplies are running short.

As Western countries roll out mass vaccination campaigns, only about 3 percent of India’s population is fully inoculated. Though conditions are slowly improving in New Delhi and Mumbai, the virus appears to be spreading largely unchecked through the rest of the country.

The New York Times asked readers in India to describe their lives in the midst of the pandemic with words and photos. They wrote about fear and loss, anxiety and boredom. Some wrote about their anger at the stumbling response by India’s government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But they also wrote about family and friends who have helped them cope, and efforts they have made to help neighbors and strangers alike.

“A lot of people my age have been helping people find resources like hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, medication, etc., through social media by verifying whatever leads are floating around on the internet and sending them to whoever needs them. I’ve been working with one such group. I realize that it is a necessary job in these times, but it’s also incredibly draining. It is the sign of a completely broken system that teenagers have to band together and work themselves to exhaustion trying to answer all these desperate pleas all over Twitter. And it’s getting harder to do by the day as things worsen because resources get exhausted very quickly. Most of the time we just end up calling a lot of numbers and get no response, and when we do it’s usually people saying there’s nothing they can do for us. It’s heartbreaking when people around are just suffering and dying and there’s so little you can do to help. We’re all terrified and burnt out and this is a very unsustainable system of getting people access to health care. You can’t leave it to the citizens to bear the brunt of a health care system that’s crumbling.” — Arunima Tiwari, New Delhi

“I miss spontaneity. I hate that I now have to plan everything out and even when I do, the plans feel like they can just disappear. I’m trying not to focus on what could have been. Instead, I’m determined to stay focused on what I can do. I have reactivated my long-dormant social media accounts to amplify what I can, and I now volunteer at a response center that offers assistance to Covid-positive patients. I don’t have a choice but to help because elected authorities have made it loud and clear that they aren’t going to.” — Anindita Nayak, Bangalore

“Life in Delhi at the moment feels like you’re having an out-of-body experience. It’s hard to imagine this is actually real and happening. Every social media feed, every WhatsApp group is full of requests from people looking for oxygen, hospital beds, critical lifesaving medicines. The worst part: There’s almost nothing you can do to help anyone immediately. It takes hours of verifying, calling, begging for help to actually find some solutions, if that even happens. By that time, you feel almost too scared to call back and find out if help is still needed for fear of hearing the inevitable — that the person has died without getting adequate care. Indians are dying not because of Covid but because they’re not receiving treatment and care.” — Shweta Bahri, Delhi

“Both my parents got Covid. I lost my mother yesterday. Father is on ventilator support. The reason I lost my mother is because she didn’t get treatment. I live in Bangalore, and there is no way you can get a bed in any hospital. The help line numbers never work. If they do, then they just take details or transfer your call with no help. Being completely helpless, I took my mother to a hospital that I’m not sure is even legitimate. They just wanted money from me. They did not have trained staff. Oxygen was always in short supply. I felt helpless that I could not take her anywhere. I knew that if I kept her there she would not survive. I had to bring my father there, and his condition deteriorated due to lack of oxygen. I managed to take him to a different hospital, but it was too late. Now he is on a ventilator.” — Paresh Patil, Bangalore

Rahul Patil died on May 17, Paresh Patil said, after this submission was received.

“It has been challenging, but I maintain a mood log throughout the day and encourage my family to do the same. I also post a mood meter on social media so people can reply with how they are feeling using an emoji and we can talk about it. I also help my parents with their medicines, food, oximeter and temperature readings. Since both have different sets of medications, it’s really important we keep a record of the medicines along with a chart of the vitals. My extended family has been very helpful during this time. They remain connected through calls and texts and remind us not to lose faith.” — Rachita Ramya, Delhi

“Since I have been going to work every day, I have not really experienced the lockdown in terms of staying inside. But it has been a very stressful year when it comes to working. When the lockdown lifted last year, people immediately rushed into the bank where I work. It has been very difficult and almost impossible here, in a rural part of India, to make people understand the importance of masks and social distancing.”

“The government has done little to make people aware of the situation. Also, the lockdowns initially were more of a television ratings stunt rather than a precautionary measure. A lot of workers in banks have died on duty, and some have been denied leave even when they were sick. The precautionary measures on paper are nowhere close to reality. In the past few months, we played dumb to something which we clearly saw coming.” — Shweta Beniwal, Kolar

“As I type this out, four doors lay ajar or wide open in my home. Three of us have now developed Covid symptoms. My old dad has been taking care of cooking, cleaning, medicating and sanitizing all day. My dad sleeps in fits through the day and night, interrupted by calls for food, tea, hoarse coughing, and groans of pain and frustration. How do I cope? Each night, as a 21-year-old, lying wide-awake — the weather is unbearably hot, and my fever rarely subsides — I make up positive scenarios in my mind. Getting a job and earning enough to secure my family’s well-being in this cruel dog-eat-dog world. Being more bold, less hesitant, in fighting people who didn’t see the warning signs of a corrupt, inept distribution of resources. Slapping each of those complacent idiots who voted into power a ruthless demagogue who wins elections by stoking fear and resentment but is a dud when it comes to long-term policymaking, tough decision-making and leadership.” — Harmandeep Khera, Chandigarh

Since sending his submission, Mr. Khera said, he and his family have recovered.

“Many friends have been infected, and we call each other every day to share a joke and to stay positive and make plans to meet in the future. Still frightening, but we are coping. I also try to help people overcome disinformation and keep telling people that most of us who are infected will recover. I ask people to avoid panic buying and seeking unvalidated cures. Since last year I have exercised regularly and continue to do so even while infected and isolated. I am also a pistol shooter for my state of Maharashtra, so mental conditioning has been an important part of my training. I meditate for 10 minutes each day to stay positive.” — Raj Khalid, Mumbai

“It is very frightening. Half of the people I know have been tested positive or have been previously infected. We haven’t stepped out of the house for the past two weeks, and it has taken a greater toll on our physical and mental health. The only rule is to avoid contact. If you want to keep your close ones safe, then you need to keep them away for a while. My mother is an essential worker, and I have seen her doing grocery shopping for many needy people who are quarantined. It’s something I’m proud of. In times like these, we need to hold on to humanity and have faith in whatever you believe in. Being an atheist, I have faith in science and myself.” — Akash Helia, Mumbai

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Pharmacies Are Entering the Mental Health Market

CVS, which merged with the insurance provider Aetna three years ago, aims to reduce overall health costs with its mental health pilot program, Dr. Knecht said. Mental health issues that are not addressed become crises, he added, “so our aspiration is to make mental health services accessible and locally available so we can address these issues before they continue to expand and result in substantial morbidity and poor outcomes.”

Removing obstacles to mental health care by making providers more accessible is helpful, said Vaile Wright, senior director of health care innovation at the American Psychological Association, “but they are never the No. 1 barrier to accessing treatment,” she said. “Cost is.”

Psychiatrists are less likely to take insurance than other types of physicians, and many psychologists, social workers and others who offer therapy likewise decline insurance because they say payments by insurers are relatively low and managed care companies sometimes subject them to intrusive audits.

The mental health services provided by the CVS MinuteClinics are covered by many major health insurers and Employee Assistance Program plans, a spokeswoman said.

“Pricing options without insurance range between $129 for an initial assessment to $69 for a 30-minute session, with many options in between,” she added.

At Walmart, the initial therapy session is $60 and the 45-minute follow-up sessions cost $45, according to the company’s website.

If you’re considering using a retail location to receive therapy, be sure to ask the same questions you would of any new therapist, experts advise. Some examples include:

In addition, if you identify as L.G.B.T. or are a member of another minority group — or if you already know that you suffer from a particular condition like anxiety or depression — it’s helpful to know whether the therapist has worked with similar populations in the past and whether they have had cultural competence training, said Alfiee Breland-Noble, a health disparities researcher and founder of the AAKOMA Project, a mental health nonprofit for teenagers and their families.

View Source

Many Families Torn Apart at the Southern Border Face a Long and Uncertain Wait

HUEHUETENANGO, Guatemala — In a small village in the Guatemalan highlands, a father smiled into the tiny screen of a cellphone and held up a soccer jersey for the camera, pointing to the name emblazoned on the back: Adelso.

In Boca Raton, Fla., on the other end of the video chat, his son — Adelso — started to cry.

“I’ll send it to you,” the father, David, said during the call in March. “You need to be strong. We’re going to hug and talk together again. Everything’s going to be fine.”

migrant children who are in the United States but separated from their parents, according to lawyers working on the issue. There are at least another 445 who were taken from parents who have not been located.

The separated families received a jolt of hope in early February when President Biden signed an executive order to reunify the migrant families by bringing the deported parents into the United States.

This week, as migrant apprehensions at the southwest border approach a near 20-year high, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would bring a handful of separated parents to the U.S. in the coming days. The process of reunifying them all could take months or years, and questions remain about what benefits will be offered to each of those families.

Adelso has lived the last three years with his aunt, Teresa Quiñónez, in Boca Raton, Fla., where she works as a real estate agent. She had come to the United States herself at 17, without her parents.

a 2020 investigation by Physicians for Human Rights, many children separated from a parent at the border exhibited symptoms and behavior consistent with trauma: post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder. In some cases, the trauma stemmed partly from experiences in the child’s home country, but researchers found it was likely linked to the separation itself.

Dr. Falcón-Banchs currently treats eight children between the ages of 6 and 16 who were separated from a parent in 2017 and 2018. Five of those children received a diagnosis of PTSD, anxiety and-or depression. Adelso is faring better and has shown resilience and coping skills, she said.

In one case, a boy from Honduras who is now 13 suffered severe anxiety and PTSD after being separated from his mother for several months and placed in foster care. Being reunited with her didn’t improve his condition right away, Falcón-Banchs said.

“When his mom first took him to school in the U.S., his brain responded in such a way that he began screaming and panicking and wanted to leave,” she said. “When he was separated, he was told that he was ‘lost in the system’ and wouldn’t be able to be reunited with his mom. So he was just crying, perhaps because of that association.”

the Trump administration did not track after separation.

And many families whose whereabouts were known have since moved or changed phone numbers, compounding the challenge of possible reunification.

Further complicating the task is that most migrants come from Central America, and three countries there — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have experienced lockdowns during the pandemic, as well as widespread internal displacement from two hurricanes, Eta and Iota.

“We must find every last family and will not stop until we do,” said Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney for immigrant rights at the A.C.L.U.

But the process has been “extremely difficult and slow,” he said, adding that “many of the parents can only be found through on-the-ground searches.”

During a visit to a small Guatemalan town, a Times reporter learned of three parents who said they were forcibly separated from their children by U.S. border officials in 2018 and then deported. Two had already made the perilous return trip to the U.S., spending $15,000 on a journey to reunite with their children in Florida.

“They returned for the kids, because they were left alone there,” said Eusevia Quiñónez, whose husband, Juan Bernardo, left with his older brother for Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Jan. 8. “Thank God, they arrived OK.”

Another father, Melvin Jacinto, was contacted by KIND, a children’s defense group, more than a year ago, but he doubts they will be able to help him. He again wants to try to enter the United States to reunite with his son, Rosendo, in Minneapolis and to find work to support his family. He said talking on the phone with his son, who turned 18 last month and from whom he has been separated for three years, is emotionally difficult for him. He can’t help but cry.

“It’s like I’m traumatized or something,” Mr. Jacinto said. “I’m not good. I don’t sleep, not at all.”

Psychologists working with separated families say that family reunification is just one step in the healing process, and that the parents have as much need for mental health counseling as the children. Many parents blame themselves for the separation, and after reunification the children, too, often blame the parents.

David, who has suffered from stress-induced gastritis and other health complications since the separation, said he had also considered hiring a smuggler to get back to the U.S. to reunite with Adelso.

“I need to see my son,” he said. “And he needs me.”

View Source

After His Heart Attack, a British Man’s Rules for Living Take Off on LinkedIn

As he sat at his computer on a recent Sunday afternoon preparing for the workweek ahead, Jonathan Frostick, a program manager at an investment bank in London, said he could not breathe. His chest tightened and his ears started to pop. He was having a heart attack.

His first thoughts were of how this would disrupt his work life.

“I needed to meet with my manager tomorrow,” Mr. Frostick, who works for HSBC, wrote in a post on LinkedIn. “This isn’t convenient.”

Later, as he convalesced in a hospital bed, Mr. Frostick began to examine his life, he wrote. Beneath a photo of himself in his hospital bed, he posted new vows for his life going forward:

“I’m not spending all day on Zoom anymore.”

“I’m restructuring my approach to work.”

He would no longer put up with workplace drama. “Life is too short,” he wrote.

Lastly: “I want to spend more time with my family.”

Since he described his epiphany a week ago, his post has been liked over 200,000 times. It has received more than 10,000 comments from readers describing how their own brushes with death had led them to step back from work and take stock of the way they had been living their lives.

ennui, dread and more work-related stress during the coronavirus pandemic.

Even those who have been lucky enough to keep their jobs have questioned their purpose in life as they spend long hours on Zoom calls and answer emails into the night.

At the same time, employees who have managed to strike a better balance between their jobs and their personal lives during the pandemic are now reckoning with a return to the office, causing them to re-evaluate how much time they want to dedicate to work.

“I know countless people in the last few years who have suffered life-threatening illnesses just simply because there is no downtime — always on call,” a management consultant from Alberta, Canada, wrote in reply to Mr. Frostick’s post. “It’s absolutely detrimental to our health, but we’re built on the existence that we always have to keep pushing.”

Another person described how she had became so burned out at work that she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

interview with Bloomberg News, Mr. Frostick, a father of three young children, said that during the pandemic he and his colleagues had spent a “disproportionate amount of time on Zoom calls.”

Before the heart attack, Mr. Frostick had been working 12-hour days, he said, missing his colleagues and suffering from the isolation of working from home.

“We’re not able to have those other conversations off the side of a desk or by the coffee machine, or take a walk and go and have that chat,” Mr. Frostick told Bloomberg. “That has been quite profound, not just in my work, but across the professional-services industry.”

HSBC did not immediately respond to a message for comment.

On Wednesday, Mr. Frostick thanked the thousands of people who had written him and wrote that he was now able to move around his house for two to three hours at a time.

Later, he wrote another post that indicated he had moved from soul-searching to trying to answer profound philosophical questions.

“Who am I? It’s like a riddle my mind cannot solve,” he wrote. “I have no idea who I am anymore. This is going to take some time … Can you answer who you are?”

View Source

We Have All Hit a Wall

“So many things seem like so much more work than my brain can possibly manage,” she said: sending routine emails, brushing her teeth after every meal, reading a novel. She has started drinking coffee from a mug that says, “Apathy Is the Best Whatever.”

“It feels like the Kübler-Ross stages of grief, bouncing around you in a sort of circle. I feel like I’ve done all of them at least twice,” she said. At least she loves her job, she added. “And I’m fine — I’m not dead.”

Natasha Rajah, a professor of psychiatry at McGill University who specializes in memory and the brain, said the longevity of the pandemic — endless monotony laced with acute anxiety — had contributed to a sense that time was moving differently, as if this past year were a long, hazy, exhausting experience lasting forever and no time at all. The stress and tedium, she said, have dulled our ability to form meaningful new memories.

“There’s definitely a change in how people are reporting memories and cognitive experiences,” Professor Rajah said. “They have fewer rich details about their personal memories, and more negative content to their memories.” This means, she said, that people may be having a harder time forming working memories and paying attention, with “a reduced ability to hold things in their minds, manipulate thoughts and plan for the future.”

Add to that a general loneliness, social isolation, anxiety and depression, she said, and it is not surprising that they are having trouble focusing on their work.

“Honestly, weirdly, sometimes when I’m writing I just stop and stare at the wall,” said Valerie M., a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology in Michigan who asked that her full name not be used because she did not want her employers to hear how her workdays are going. “The staring at the wall contributes to the time warp. I’m like, ‘I spent the whole day, and I really didn’t do anything.’ Not that I did anything fun, either. It’s like, ‘Wow, I don’t even know what I did.’”

Prolonged stress will do that to you, said Mike Yassa, professor of neuroscience and the director of the UCI Brain Initiative at the University of California, Irvine. “Stress is OK in small amounts, but when it extends over time it’s very dangerous,” he said. “It disrupts our cycles of sleep and our regular routines in things like exercise and physical activity — all these things make it very difficult for the body to be resilient.”

View Source

Suicide and Self-Harm: Bereaved Families Count the Costs of Lockdowns

LONDON — Sunny, driven and with a new engineering master’s degree in hand, Joshua Morgan was hopeful he could find a job despite the pandemic, move out of his mother’s house and begin his life.

But as lockdowns in Britain dragged on and no job emerged, the young man grew cynical and self-conscious, his sister Yasmin said. Mr. Morgan felt he could not get a public-facing job, like working at a grocery store, because his mother, Joanna, had open-heart surgery last year, and Mr. Morgan was “exceptionally careful” about her health.

He and his mother contracted the coronavirus in January, forcing them to quarantine in their small London apartment for over two weeks. Concerned by things he was saying, friends raised the alarm and referred him to mental health services.

But days before the end of his quarantine last month, Mr. Morgan, 25, took his own life. “He just sounded so deflated,” his sister said of their last conversation, adding that he said he felt imprisoned and longed to go outside.

Japan saw a spike in suicide among women last year, and in Europe mental health experts have reported a rise in the number of young people expressing suicidal thoughts. In the United States, many emergency rooms have faced surges in admissions of young children and teenagers with mental health issues.

Mental health experts say prolonged symptoms of depression and anxiety may prompt risky behaviors that lead to self-harm, accidents, or even death, especially among young people.

weigh the risks of depression if they impose new virus restrictions. And public health officials in some areas that have seen a surge of adolescent suicides have pushed for schools to reopen, although researchers say it is too early to conclusively link restrictions to suicide rates.

June CDC survey found that younger adults, along with ethnic minorities and essential workers, experienced increased substance use and suicidal ideation.

“Imagine a young person in a small room, who takes their course online and has limited social life due to restrictions,” said Fabrice Jollant, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Paris. “They may be tempted to consume more drugs or drink more alcohol, and may have less physical activity, all of which can contribute to symptoms of depression, anxiety and poor sleep.”

For Pepijn Remmers, such temptations had tragic consequences.

Pepijn, 14, greeted lockdown restrictions last spring with positive energy. An adventurous and sociable teenager, he picked up piano playing and would slip under the fence of the local soccer pitch on the outskirts of Amsterdam in the afternoons to play with his best friend, Thijs.

But as the pandemic dragged on, Pepijn struggled to focus and online classes became too “booooring,” he told his parents. New restrictions in the fall stopped the soccer.

He began to take drugs in October, according to his father, Gaston Remmers, and his exercising routine waned in December. As his sleep patterns began to change, his parents took him to a therapist.

Papyrus, saw its calls increase by 25 percent, in line with an increase of about 20 percent each year.

It is unclear, the organization says, whether this is a sign of more people experiencing more suicidal thoughts or symptoms of mental health issues, or if people now feel more comfortable reaching out for help.

Lily Arkwright confided in her friend and housemate Matty Bengtsson. A 19-year-old history student at Cardiff University, Lily was self-confident, outgoing and charismatic in public, her friends and family said, but as she went back to school in September, she began to struggle with the effects of lockdown.

She also became more withdrawn, Mr. Bengtsson said.

One evening in October, as Mr. Bengtsson and Ms. Arkwright were getting ready to see some friends, she grew upset and called her mother to say that she was coming home, Mr. Bengtsson said.

Ms. Arkwright took her own life there, a day after the birthday of her brother, one of her closest confidants.

“Lockdown put Lily in physical and emotional situations she would never have in normal times,” said Lily’s mother, Annie.

Ms. Arkwright said she hoped that growing concerns about young people’s mental health during the pandemic would prompt more of them to share their struggles and seek help.

“It’s OK for a young child to fall over and let their parents know that their knee hurts,” Ms. Arkwright said. “This same attitude needs to be extended to mental health.”

But though stigma around discussing mental health has lessened, society, too, needs to normalize talking about suicide, said Ged Flynn, chief executive of Papyrus, adding that the more comfortable people were with the subject, “the less we need help lines like us.”

People should be praised for adapting and finding resilience during these difficult times, Mr. Flynn said. “Even the need to reach out to a help-line shows resilience,” he said, adding that considering the circumstances, many people were doing “really well.”

For Mr. Morgan’s friends, the loss of a man they called confident and kind has given them a resolve. “Josh always said: One day he’s going to make it,” said his friend Sandy Caulee, 25. “At least we will — for him.”

View Source

How to Get Vaccinated If You’re Afraid of Needles

Most people aren’t particularly fond of needles.

But to a significant number of people, the fear of needles goes beyond merely inducing anxiety into a more dangerous area, in which the fear prevents them from seeking out needed medical care.

And as the world’s hopes of returning to a post-pandemic normal rest largely on people’s willingness to take a Covid-19 vaccine, experts and health care professionals are assuring those people that there are ways to overcome this fear.

“It would be heartbreaking to me if a fear of needles held someone back from getting this vaccine, because there are things we can do to alleviate that,” said Dr. Nipunie S. Rajapakse, an infectious diseases expert at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

A study from the University of Michigan found that 16 percent of adults from several countries avoided annual flu vaccinations because of a fear of needles, and 20 percent avoided tetanus shots.

Just be careful about how much information you’re sharing.) The more selfies, stickers and grateful posts people see, the more likely they are to associate the vaccine with positive feelings, she said.

View Source

Travel Workers Despair a Year Lost to Covid-19

In 2020, governments across the world closed borders, airlines grounded flights, hotels shuttered and cruises were canceled or postponed.

The measures imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus decimated the livelihoods of millions of travel and hospitality workers, whose jobs depend on tourism. Efforts by governments to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic and stimulate the recovery of the travel industry have fallen short, especially in developing countries where many workers have received little or no support.

In the United States alone, more than four million travel jobs were lost in 2020, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Across the globe, between 100 to 120 million more direct tourism jobs are gone or at risk, the World Tourism Organization has warned.

The cruise and aviation sectors were hit particularly hard. After cruise ships were grounded last March, every one percent of cruisers lost resulted in a reduction of 9,100 industry-related jobs, the Cruise Lines International Association, the industry’s trade group, found. Each day of the suspension caused direct and indirect industry losses of 2,500 jobs. The downturn in air traffic last year resulted in a loss of around 4.8 million direct aviation jobs, a 43 percent drop from pre-pandemic levels, the Geneva-based Air Transport Action group said.

Six travel workers, from a cruise-ship worker in Manila to a tour bus driver in East Jerusalem, spoke with us about the challenges they and their families have faced over the past 12 months without work. In their own words, they shared how the prolonged shutdown and its uncertainty upended their lives. While they all feel they have survived the worst of the pandemic, many of them have accumulated significant debt and worry about their future job prospects. Most of them feel optimistic that travel will pick up soon following the global inoculation drive, but are concerned that it could take years for the industry to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

These interviews were edited and condensed for clarity.

the Philippines

After nearly 10 years working as a wine steward for Norwegian Cruise Line, I was repatriated to the Philippines last April, unsure when the coronavirus would be brought under control and I would be called back to work.

When we were still on board the cruise ship, they gave us severance pay, but when we came home, it suddenly stopped. I have been a seafarer for almost 24 years, and this is the first time I have not received any money for nearly one year. It is very, very challenging.

In my job, I was responsible for sales and inventory of beverages and assisting passengers to pick out wines to accompany their meals. I would earn around $2,000 a month, including tips, and sent my entire salary home to support my wife and four children, who are 26, 23, 16 and 12.

We were quite comfortable. We even had savings and used the money to start construction on a new home. But now we cannot even afford our electricity bills and we are drowning in debt.

We had to move out of our home in Manila last year because we could no longer afford the rent. Now we are living in the house we bought, which is still under construction. I had to buy cement to put it on the floor so that my children wouldn’t have to sleep on the mud and I put up tarp so that we would have a roof over our kitchen.

We have been resourceful, but I don’t know how much longer we can live like this. We are behind on our mortgage payments and we have almost $5,000 in debt. I looked for work but there is nothing. My daughter works in a fast-food chain and my son does courier work, but that is only enough for our meals.

I cannot sleep at night worrying about the next day when the sun comes up. Will someone call to ask for the money? Will they come and take the house? How can I give anyone an honest answer when I don’t know how long before I can work again?

Jerusalem

I used to spend most of my time crisscrossing Israel and the occupied West Bank, transporting tourists from around the world to centuries-old holy sites, open-air markets and seaside hotels.

But after the pandemic emerged in Israel and the occupied West Bank in early 2020, I lost my job. I am still without work and have racked up a significant amount of debt.

The pandemic has caused tremendous anxiety for me. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel because nobody can tell us when tourism will finally come back. Every time, we hear another estimate — one day they say it will return in the summer and the next day they say it will return in the fall.

I have managed to put food on the table for my wife and my son through monthly $1,160 welfare checks from the Israeli government and some support from my former employer, but I am still facing enormous financial challenges. My bank account is in deficit, my rent is in arrears by nine months, and I have a growing number of unpaid bills piling up.

For the past decade, I worked for a variety of tour bus companies, which paid me about $1,530 per month. I would work almost every day of the month during peak tourism seasons.

I have tried to find new employment but was only offered a job as a truck driver. Earlier this month, I sold my car for $3,050 to buy myself some breathing room.

My situation is better than the people I know in the West Bank, but it’s still very difficult because I’m always thinking about how I can make ends meet.

Despite the challenges, I still have hope I will eventually be able to return to my old job.

If I weren’t optimistic, I wouldn’t know what to do. If God wills, I’ll be back in the driver’s seat soon.

I was working as a housekeeper at two resorts in March when the borders shut down and immediately our managers sent us home. Since then, I have had no income or assistance and it is impossible to find any work.

The hotels that have opened in Jamaica are all operating at reduced capacity, so they are not employing as many people as they used to. In season, I would make around $250 a month cleaning 30 rooms a day. Now, housekeepers are cleaning five to 10 rooms at most and are making less money.

My eldest son is taking care of our family now. God bless him, he has managed to make some money selling electronic parts online. My husband passed away many years ago and my daughter is only 15 so we have a small family and manage to get by, but we desperately need the money I used to make.

We had to leave our two-bedroom home because we could not afford the rent. For months now we have been living in a small room in our friend’s house. We sleep on the floor on mattresses and have a small seating area where we watch television together. I do all the cooking and cleaning for both our families, which has been demanding, but it is all I can do in return for a roof over our heads.

I want so much more for my children. I want them to finish university and get good, respected jobs. They deserve so much more than this and it breaks my heart that I cannot do more for them in this moment.

The hardest part is not knowing when I will be able to work again and provide for my family. It could be a very long time before the hotels are full again and it is very competitive to get other housekeeping work, especially in private residences.

I went for a few trials last June when things opened up, but it was backbreaking work with too much attitude from the residence owners. In the resorts there is a daily routine that I am used to, and when I finish my work I go home without a headache.

Maybe I didn’t appreciate my work so much then, but I would do anything to go back there now. As soon as I am given the vaccination I will go from hotel to hotel until one of them takes me in.

Uganda

My last safari was in February last year. We almost did not finish the tour because our European clients had to rush back home before their countries went into lockdown.

I was working every day — around 15 days as a guide on the field and 15 days doing logistics in Kampala. When everything suddenly stopped, I lost all my income and unfortunately, the government did not give us any help. We were on our own.

It has been a very very hard time for safari guides. Most of us have had to sell our property, land or vehicles just to survive. It is only by God’s grace that some of us are still surviving after all this time.

I got a small job washing cars. As a safari guide, I made around $800 a month, and now I make $100. I have a wife and three children aged 18, 12 and 8, and right now our main target is to be able to eat food. If we get food for a day, then we thank God.

We were renting a house with three bedrooms, one sitting room, and a kitchen for about $150 per month, but around May I had to move my family to a smaller house, which is around $75 per month. Now we have two bedrooms, a living room and the kitchen is outside.

My biggest problem now is sending the kids back to school. They go to a private school and my son is in his final year so I cannot pull him out. I am fighting tooth and nail so that he can finish and go to university. I sold two small pieces of land and borrowed some money, which I will have to pay back in the near future.

There are days where I feel running mad. Where I can’t think anymore, but then I think of people who are in a worse position than me and I feel grateful. I always have hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

If the vaccine has success, I have hope that a few tourists will start traveling and maybe we can get a few safaris in June or July. It will not be the same, but it is something and that is where our hope lies.

Britain

The first blow to my career came before the pandemic, in September 2019, when the Thomas Cook group collapsed. That was my first commercial pilot role and I had worked for them for 11 years before I lost my job.

Thankfully, the industry was quite buoyant at that time and I managed to get a job in January last year with a small company called Titan Airways that specializes in V.I.P. charter work and high-end travel.

Then the pandemic hit in March. They realized there was no money coming in for the foreseeable future, so they let me go. In the aviation industry, it is common for the last one to join to be the first one to leave.

I couldn’t believe it. I have a partner, two small children and a mortgage. I knew I wasn’t going to get another flying job with the way the travel industry was, so I had to look for something that would bring in any sort of income. In May, I managed to get a job as a delivery driver for Ocado, the U.K. online supermarket.

I took an 80 percent pay cut from my pilot job. We had to go through our finances and shave off everything that wasn’t a necessity like private health care, subscriptions, gym memberships. It has been a really trying time to live on one salary, which is effectively minimum wage. The numbers don’t always match up on a monthly basis in terms of what comes in and what goes out, even after selling my car and taking other measures to save money.

I’ve also started a specialty coffee company called Altitude Coffee London. It’s heavily themed in aviation, which is obviously my background. I built it myself with my dad, who had a commercial property that we turned it into a production factory for roasting specialty grade coffee, which we sell to consumers online.

I have a few people come in and help, but it’s basically just me roasting the coffee, packing it up and getting it out to customers when I’m not delivering for Ocado. The reception so far has been really positive, but obviously we have some way to go to establish ourselves in the market, which is highly competitive.

I’ll definitely go back to flying when jobs become available, but I think it will be a while for people like me who have been made redundant. We’re probably looking at 2022 or 2023. Flying is something that is ingrained in you forever and there’s not really any other experience you can liken it to. Everyday going to work and seeing a blue sky and beautiful scenery and chatting away to someone who is as passionate about the job as you are for eight to 10 hours.

Italy

My wife, Erika Cornali, and I have both been full-time tour guides in Venice for 11 years, and like 90 percent of tour guides in Italy, we are self employed. Until the pandemic, the job was very rewarding and allowed us to settle down. We bought a house that we love, and thankfully we do not have to pay a mortgage anymore.

Venice has a deep history in tourism. It has been in the Grand Tour since the 1600s and 1700s. Our association of tour guides in Venice dates back to the end of the 1970s. So, for a city that is so deeply involved in the tourism sector, this pandemic has been a big shock and it’s still a dramatic situation.

I keep an Excel spreadsheet of my services and when I look at 2019, I see that I gave 290 tours all year round. In 2020, I gave just 55.

We are lucky because we have some savings, so I am not worried about tomorrow, but I am worried about what happens after tomorrow. I know we can manage until the end of this year with this crisis, but we have two children, and we need to think about their future.

It seems that things will come back slowly, which is worrying because there will not be as much work to go around. We are used to millions of tourists each year, thousands on a daily basis, but now you see very little activity, and tour guides find themselves in a desperate situation some of them going to the train station holding up signs.

It has also been tough on the mental condition. If you are used to working everyday of your life, sometimes twice or three jobs per day, and then suddenly you find yourself with nothing to do. You need something for your mind, not only for your pocket.

I know life will go back to what it was eventually, just as it did after the London and Paris terrorist attacks, but how long will this crisis last we just don’t know. I worry for Venice, because our local population is already in decline and with no economic activity, more people will be forced to leave.

Adam Rasgon contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

View Source