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Suicide of U.S. Internet activist fuels talk about depression

English.news.cn   2013-01-15 12:38:31            

BEIJING, Jan. 15 (Xinhuanet) -- Prominent U.S. Internet developer and activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide last week, which triggered heated discussion in Startupland these days about the prevalence of depression in the tech community.

Swartz, who co-founded Reddit and became an Internet activist fighting to make online content free to the public, hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment last Friday, said a statement released by his family and his girlfriend.

The 26-year-old Internet folk hero was accused of stealing nearly 5 million articles from an MIT archive and was set to be tried in February.

Swartz struggled for years with the mental health disorder, and wrote about it occasionally in his blog. "I feel ashamed to have an illness," he wrote in a 2007 post. "It sounds absurd, but there still is an enormous stigma around being sick."

The 20-hour working days and huge pressure as founder of startups which can go anywhere make Swartz not the only one suffering from this illness in the Silicon Valley.

Ben Huh, CEO of the Cheezburger Web humor empire, wrote publicly about his struggles after his first startup failed.

"I was thoroughly broke, depressed, and feeling the burden of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars of other people's money," he wrote in his blog. "I spent a week in my room with the lights off and cut off from the world, thinking of the best way to exit this failure. Death was a good option -- and it got better by the day."

Huh posted his story in the wake of another suicide that shook the industry: the late 2011 death of Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the 22-year-old co-founder of social network Diaspora.

Zhitomirskiy battled depression all his life, and the pressure of building a startup that never took off weighed on him, according to those close to him.

Swartz's death is sparking a fresh round of soul-searching.

"It's a major issue, and it's one of the least talked about things in the Valley," said serial entrepreneur Sam Altman, who was a Y Combinator classmate of Schwartz's. "The emotional rollercoaster is very lonely, and the downtimes are really down."


Editor: Deng Shasha
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