“Inside Facebook’s Suicide Algorithm” AND More on Best 5 Monday Reads


Hello everyone! I hope all of you had a wonderful weekend. Lets begin our week with Best 5 Reads!

1) Facebook’s AI Suicide Prevention Program: Likes and Dislikes

One year after the launch of an artificial intelligence (AI) program that scans accounts for signs of suicidal intent in its users, experts weigh in with their likes and dislikes of the initiative.

2) Inside Facebook’s Suicide Algorithm

Here’s how the company uses artificial intelligence to predict your mental state from your posts

3) First ever cross-government suicide prevention plan published

The plan for reducing deaths from suicide in England has a focus on how social media and the latest technology can identify those most at risk.

4) To Make Sense of the Present, Brains May Predict the Future

A controversial theory suggests that perception, motor control, memory and other brain functions all depend on comparisons between ongoing actual experiences and the…

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15 tips to get your life together

15 tips to get your life together

  1. Hang out with people who add to your life
  2. Get a pet and take care of it
  3. Stop chasing happiness with outside attachments
  4. Be more grateful
  5. Be yourself
  6. Start saving your money
  7. What gets your juices flowing? 
  8. Accept yourself and all your emotions
  9. Do what you’ll say you’ll do
  10. Experience all that life has to offer
  11. Look after your body
  12. Live in the present
  13. Stop complaining
  14. Spend time on your relationships
  15. Focus on doing the work



Alcoholics Anonymous in Blantyre

Did you know that there an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group in Blantyre, Malawi. Yes, AA is available in Blantyre. Its only available on demand. this means that one has to call and then get invited to access the the support group.

AA is “a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.”

Internationally, it is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere worldwide. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem. Therefore, the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership. AA gives people in recovery an opportunity to meet and connect with others on a similar journey.

Alcoholics Anonymous, while originally designed to support people with alcoholism, has seen more and more members with a variety of substance habits including narcotics and cannabis among others.

The 12 Steps of AA are:

  1. WE ADMITTED WE WERE POWERLESS OVER ALCOHOL — THAT OUR LIVES HAD BECOME UNMANAGEABLE. The first step encourages people with alcoholism to admit that they cannot control their addictive behaviours.
  2. CAME TO BELIEVE THAT A POWER GREATER THAN OURSELVES COULD RESTORE US TO SANITY. The second step presents hope, faith and realisation. AA believes that people with alcoholism must look to a higher power to recover from addiction.
  3. MADE A DECISION TO TURN OUR WILL AND OUR LIVES OVER TO THE CARE OF GOD AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM. Through the third step, individuals with alcoholism turn their lives over to their higher-power. The individual puts his or her trust in this superior being to eliminate addiction.
  4. MADE A SEARCHING AND FEARLESS MORAL INVENTORY OF OURSELVES. People with alcoholism take an honest look at their lives. AA believes the identification of past regret, embarrassment or guilt can help individuals through the recovery process.
  5. ADMITTED TO GOD, TO OURSELVES, AND TO ANOTHER HUMAN BEING THE EXACT NATURE OF OUR WRONGS. This step also incorporates self-evaluation. Sharing past mistakes with their higher power, themselves and another person can help people with alcoholism build addiction-free lives.
  6. WE ARE ENTIRELY READY TO HAVE GOD REMOVE ALL THESE DEFECTS OF CHARACTER. This is a step of preparation and reflection. Individuals admit they are willing to have their higher power remove their addictive behaviours.
  7. HUMBLY ASKED HIM TO REMOVE OUR SHORTCOMINGS. Now that they know the root of their addiction, people with alcoholism ask their higher power to help eliminate their character flaws. These individuals must also do their part to separate themselves from influences that build addictive behaviours.
  8. MADE A LIST OF ALL PERSONS WE HAD HARMED, AND BECAME WILLING TO MAKE AMENDS TO THEM ALL. People with alcoholism should make a list of the people they harmed while battling addiction. This strategy allows them to repair the damages done in the past.
  9. MADE DIRECT AMENDS TO SUCH PEOPLE WHEREVER POSSIBLE, EXCEPT WHEN TO DO SO WOULD INJURE THEM OR OTHERS. Through this step, people with alcoholism make amends with those on their list. Making amends could mean sitting down face-to-face with those they’ve wronged or writing a letter to them.
  10. CONTINUED TO TAKE PERSONAL INVENTORY AND WHEN WE WERE WRONG PROMPTLY ADMITTED IT. Monitoring your recovery is integral in sustaining sobriety. This step requires individuals with alcoholism to be vigilant against triggers and addictive behaviours.
  11. SOUGHT THROUGH PRAYER AND MEDITATION TO IMPROVE OUR CONSCIOUS CONTACT WITH GOD AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM, PRAYING ONLY FOR KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL FOR US AND THE POWER TO CARRY THAT OUT.  Prayer and meditation could help stave off addictive behaviours. Individuals with alcoholism maintain conscious contact with their higher power.
  12. HAVING HAD A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING AS THE RESULT OF THESE STEPS, WE TRIED TO CARRY THIS MESSAGE TO ALCOHOLICS, AND TO PRACTICE THESE PRINCIPLES IN ALL OUR AFFAIRS. The final step encourages people to help others overcome alcoholism. This step signifies the completion of the cycle of life.

It should be noted that AA 12 steps is not a substitute for  a traditional drug rehabilitation

What to Expect at Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings

Thousands of AA meetings are held around the world weekly. Sessions can be open or closed to the public. Open meetings allow friends and loved ones of individuals with alcohol addiction to attend, while closed sessions are reserved just for people with drinking problems.

Meetings last about 60 to 90 minutes and are typically held in public forums, such as schools, churches or community centres. They often involve meditating, praying, reading AA literature and sharing personal stories. A member or the entire group will read the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions of AA out loud.

AA meetings are anonymous. During meetings, people introduce themselves to the group using only their first names. They can share their stories from the past week, such as alcohol-related challenges they faced or positive experiences dealing with triggers. But participants are discouraged from giving advice to one another, and crosstalk is not permitted. During meetings, members make announcements and pass a hat or basket around for donations. Because AA does not charge for attendance, these donations help pay for costs such as literature and incidental expenses.

There you go.

Please contact QECH, MH Clinic on how to contact AA in Blantyre on +265 (0) 992 717 232/880 234 250

Suicide Prevention

Risk of suicide

Thoughts or behaviours of suicide are both damaging and dangerous and are considered a psychiatric emergency. Someone experiencing thoughts of suicide should get immediate assistance from a health or mental health professional. Those experiencing suicidal thoughts should not be considered as weak or flawed, they can be as a result of a mental health illness. We should be aware that they can occur to anyone.

Warning signs of suicide

  • Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation, can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here” but can become more overt and dangerous
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Talking, writing or thinking about death
  • Impulsive or reckless Suicide

Signs of impending danger

Any person exhibiting these behaviors should get care immediately:

  • Putting their affairs in order and giving away their possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Mood shifts from despair to calm
  • Planning, possibly by looking around to buy, steal or borrow the tools they need to complete suicide, such as a firearm or prescription medication

If you are unsure, a licensed mental health professional can help assess risk.

Suicide risk factors

Research has found that more than half of people (54%) who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition. A number of other things may put a person at risk of suicide, including:

  • A family history of suicide.
  • Substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can result in mental highs and lows that exacerbate suicidal thoughts.
  • Intoxication. More than one in three people who die from suicide are found to be currently under the influence.
  • Access to firearms. 
  • A serious or chronic medical illness.
  • Gender. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to die by suicide.
  • A history of trauma or abuse. 
  • Prolonged stress.
  • Isolation.
  • Age. People under age 24 or above age 65 are at a higher risk for suicide.
  • A recent tragedy or loss.
  • Agitation and sleep deprivation.

Can thoughts of suicide be prevented?

Mental health professionals are trained to help a person understand their feelings and can improve mental wellness and resiliency. Depending on their training they can provide effective ways to help.

Psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, can help a person with thoughts of suicide recognize unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior, validate troubling feelings, and learn coping skills.

Medication can be used if necessary to treat underlying depression and anxiety and can lower a person’s risk of hurting themselves. Depending on the person’s mental health diagnosis, other medications can be used to alleviate symptoms.


If you or someone you know is in an emergency, please contact a mental health professional as soon as possible. You can also call 0992717232/0880234250 (Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi) to speak to a mental health professional between 8am and 4pm.





From prison to hospital: The evolution of Mental Health care in Malawi

Did you know that in-patient psychiatric services in Malawi started in a prison? That’s right, Zomba Mental Hospital – the main public in-patient psychiatric hospital in Malawi, – started out of Zomba Central Prison in 1910. It all started when wardens and other prisoners noted that some in-mates had poor mental well-being. These inmates afflicted with mental illnesses were kept in a separate area called the Zomba Lunatic Asylum. Though it may be a stretch to call it the first in-patient psychiatric services given the limited services provided for them, the Zomba Lunatic Asylum eventually evolved into the Zomba Mental Hospital, which opened in 1953. At this stage, Zomba Mental Hospital’s management was transferred from Zomba Central Prison to Zomba mental hospital under the Department of Health, thus marking the start of formal, in-patient psychiatric services for Malawians.

The first psychiatrist was appointed in 1955 to Zomba Mental Hospital.  Since then, individuals deemed to have mental aberration have been admitted there. These include individuals with various serious psychiatric illnesses (substance abuse, schizophrenia and related psychoses, bipolar disorders, severe major depressive disorder), intellectual disabilities, and uncontrolled epileptic disorders, among others. In the early 2000s, the Hospital was rebuilt and refurbished to improve the quality of the wards. Today, Zomba Mental Hospital is the main public in-patient psychiatric referral hospital in Malawi, with a bed capacity of 330.  The hospital is staffed with nurse technicians, psychiatric nurse practitioners, psychiatric clinical officers, occupation therapist, psychiatrists and psychiatric registrars (psychiatrists in training). It primarily serves the population of the Southern Region of Malawi, but also receives patients from other parts of the country.

This historical development of mental health care in Malawi is not different from most countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. Most patients were isolated in asylums in the 1900s, and later moved to large mental hospitals in the 1950s. These hospitals remained isolated and far from most communities, which resulted in limiting access to care and the development of stigma against people with mental illnesses.

Zomba Mental Hospital was not immune to this stigma, with stigma continuing to surround the hospital today. This stigma is generated by various causes. The first is the limited resources invested in the hospital, which contribute to an unpleasant hospital environment that seems unwelcoming to people. The second is the limited public understanding of the services available at the hospital, limited knowledge on the treatment that occurs once a patient is admitted to Zomba Mental Hospital and lastly, the limited understanding of different types of mental illnesses and that a patient with mental illness can recover with appropriate treatment and support they can get.

So, while I have little control to influence resource allocation to Zomba Mental Hospital, I will contribute to reducing the stigma caused by limited understanding of the mental health services available and the treatment that occurs once a patient is admitted.

Services and treatments at the hospital include in-patient admissions to enable appropriate evaluation and respite care, treatment with medication (pharmacotherapy), shock treatment (electroconvulsive therapy), occupation therapy, and forensic assessments among others. Teaching of various health professionals including doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, clinical officers and medical assistants, also take place at Zomba Mental Hospital.

There you go, this was a bit of history of Zomba Mental Hospital and psychiatric services in Malawi . We hope you enjoyed it, please share with us your thoughts by commenting on this post or via on this site.


  1. Wilkinson MG. Malawi’s mental health service. Malawi Medical Journal. 1992;8(1):10-6.

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