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It's not often that someone comes up and imagines an idea that really lights fire and becomes a common place for so many.   While Reddit was never a place I'd call home, it's hard denying it's impact.

Aaron Swartz, a precocious web pioneer who advocated for free online content, was found dead in his Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment of an apparent suicide.

“Our beloved brother, son, friend, and partner Aaron Swartz hanged himself on Friday in his Brooklyn apartment,” a statement from his family and partner said. “We are in shock, and have not yet come to terms with his passing.”

Swartz’ federal trial on computer fraud charges was scheduled to begin next month. In 2011, Swartz was arrested after prosecutors alleged he illegally downloaded millions of scientific journals from JSTOR, an online archive within the Massachusetts Institute of Technology network.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Tonight, one of Reddits Founders gave in to his fears and demons and hung himself.

While he may be most well known for Reddit, his earlier contributions - RSS and RSS Reading technology have made up the online landscape and changed the way so many of us work.

Whether we love all of his politics or hate them, Swartz was a man of brilliant mental mastery who couldn't overcome those demons.

"But Aaron was also a person who'd had problems with depression for many years," Doctorow blogged. He added that "whatever problems Aaron was facing, killing himself didn't solve them. Whatever problems Aaron was facing, they will go unsolved forever."

At age 14, Swartz co-wrote the RSS specification.

Mental health issues are hard for so many to come to terms with, and we often refuse to discuss them.   Suicides are committed and throughout history, they have been mocked or swept aside to avoid dealing with the real day to day agony that people live with, the stresses and the turmoil that cause them to believe that they will be better no longer a part of the world, and the world will be better with out them.

For his friends and family, his suicide will exist as the moment where they question themselves, why did this happen, and why did they not see the signs earlier?

But for all of us, it's a reminder that success, fame, notoriety, whatever doesn't make you immune to mental health issues.

There will (and are already) great blogs about how he shaped the world through his technology.   But through his death, he calls again a reminder of a mental health issue.

Around the time of recession rocked the United States, its population experienced a disturbing shift: Today, suicide takes more American lives than any other form of injury.

Between 2000 and 2008 motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death by injury, but suicide surpassed car crashes in 2009, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health. The switch is the culmination of a decade-long trend; the rate of death by suicide increased by 15 percent over the past ten years, while the unintentional motor vehicle crash death rate dropped by 25 percent during that same period.

Suicides in America are growing.   And rather than hide in the closet and say "what a shame", we need to get serious about doing more to understand mental health issues.

Swartz was high profile.   But today, there are others.. who aren't as famous.. who found a way to take their lives.

Originally posted to tmservo433 on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 05:14 PM PST.

Also republished by Mental Health Awareness.

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