Sansar Comedian Brody Stevens Has Died In an Apparent Suicide

Brody Stevens (from Instagram)

This is tragic news. A comedian who appeared as part of last week’s episode of the Comedy Gladiators stand-up comedy series in Sansar has been found dead. Police are treating the case as a suicide.

Brody Stevens, a Los Angeles-based stand-up comedian, who had been very open about his issues with depression in the past, had confided in friends recently that he had taken himself off his medications because he felt they “dulled” his creativity as a comic. The news report from The Blast also says:

After hearing of his passing, comedian Patton Oswalt said, “If you are depressed or feeling suicidal please please please please please reach out to ANYONE. I never get to see Brody Stevens again I can’t stand this.”

Fellow comedian Steve Hofstetter, who hosted the show in Sansar, posted a series of tweets about his friend:

I had this VR show we were doing live from my house. It was the second time we’d ever done it, but after a few comedians asked me about how it works, I invited everyone over to hang before the next show. Brody was one of the first people to tell me he was coming…

Brody somehow figured out that if you sat down in real life and pushed forward on the hand control[lers], your avatar runs around on its butt. It was hilarious. And he did that of the next two minutes, just crushing with how goofy it looked.

As somebody who has dealt with chronic clinical depression in his own life, and who has sometimes had to fight back against thoughts of suicide, this is heartbreaking. As Patton Oswalt says, you need to seek help if you are suffering. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It is not a solution.

I’m going to repeat a list of resources from an earlier blogpost (a rant about BetterHelp.com):

If you are currently experiencing a mental health or addictions related crisis:

If you are not in crisis, but still need help, here are some other good places to get started:

When you absolutely need someone to talk to online, one of the best places to try is The KindVoice subReddit and Discord channel, both of which are staffed by volunteers:

“Sometimes we need to hear a human voice on the other end of the line telling us that everything’s going to be ok. This subreddit is for people that aren’t in a suicidal crisis, but feel depressed, alone, or want someone to talk to.”

A similar service is called The Haven, another Discord channel for people who need someone to talk to. Both Kind Voice and The Haven are free, volunteer-run services.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. NEVER. Give. Up! There is always hope, even when things look their bleakest.


Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

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I Need to Take a Break, But I’ll Be Back

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Photo by Asdrubal luna on Unsplash

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged anything this week, except for one post last Monday.

The storm clouds have rolled in, and I’ve got a serious week-long case of the Mondays. Things have been going wrong for me just about everywhere I choose to look.

I flubbed up a simple series of tasks I was supposed to do at a certain time in my off-hours in Second Life, and as a result, I landed up ending a working relationship that had started out so well, which I destroyed through my own thoughtlessness and stupidity. (I’ve already apologized to the person involved, and removed myself from the project. I won’t write more about it.)

But I see that single trip-up as a warning sign. Everywhere I look this week, I see evidence of my difficulties in moving ahead. I’m really not very happy with myself right now, and I know that my depression is colouring everything with the darkest of colours.

I guess what I am saying is that I need to give myself some time to admit that not everything is O.K., that I need some time to rebalance my life and refocus on the essential stuff, and that I need to go forth and battle my depression (again).  So I’m taking a break from blogging for the next little while. How long? I don’t know.

Don’t worry about me; I have plans to go for dinner with my best friend tonight and he’s sure to get an earful. I will have supper with my Mom like I always do on Sundays. I have a real-life social support network full of people who love me and care about me, and I intend to make use of it to get back up on my feet again. I have absolutely no plans to do anything drastic, so don’t worry about that.

But I do need to take a break from blogging.

You’ll all be the first to know when I do come back.

UPDATED: Virtual Reality in the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety

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Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels

I have been up-front about my lifelong battles with clinical depression on this blog. I’m doing my small part to help fight the negative societal stigma against mental health problems, by sharing my story. If doing so helps one other person who may be struggling, then it’s worth it to me. And a great many people are struggling. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada:

Mood disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses in the general population. According to Statistics Canada’s 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) on Mental Health, 5.4% of the Canadian population aged 15 years and over reported symptoms that met the criteria for a mood disorder in the previous 12 months, including 4.7% for major depression and 1.5% for bipolar disorder.

I’ve been under a doctor’s treatment for depression since my mid-twenties, and I probably would have benefitted from seeking treatment even sooner than that. At times, my episodes of depression have been so severe that I have had to go on extended sick leaves from work. I’ve even been hospitalized twice when I was at my very worst. I have had to work very hard to crawl back from the edge of the black pit of despair, more than once in my life.

I first got my Oculus Rift headset back in January 2017, when I was on sick leave for depression from my job, and my life was feeling pretty bleak. Shortly afterwards, I also got the Oculus Touch hand controllers to be able to handle objects in VR.

I have no scientific proof, but I do believe that using that VR headset regularly—creating art using TiltBrush and Oculus Medium, using apps like Guided Meditation VR and Nature Treks VR, and interacting with other avatars and exploring new experiences in High Fidelity and the then-closed Sansar beta—was indeed a beneficial factor in my most recent recovery from depression. The best way I can describe it was that VR got my neurons firing again!

Some would no doubt argue that too much use of a VR headset is isolating, which I can understand if you are only playing solo games, or spending innumerable hours immersed in VR. However, in many games, and especially in most social VR spaces, you are often interacting with other people, which would counteract the isolation aspect somewhat. I also strongly recommend taking the time to build up your tolerance to VR, starting from sessions as short as 10-15 minutes, and building up slowly from that. I am a little concerned when I hear about people who boast logging 5, 6, 7, 8, or even more hours at one stretch in VR. Everything in moderation is the key here.

And when you’re too depressed to set foot outside your front door, it can sometimes be easier to slip on a VR headset to visit people and places! No need to get dressed up, or to put on your “happy face” to face the world. There have often been times in the past when I have felt extremely anxious, and I was able to load up the Nature Treks VR app in my Oculus Rift and relax on a calm, sandy beach lined with swaying palm trees, listening to the pounding surf, or just put myself within a mountain-ringed meadow of wildflowers, watching birds and butterflies. Much cheaper than an actual flight to a vacation spot! And you can revisit any time you like, with very little fuss.

To date, there really hasn’t been much in the way of rigorous scientific investigation into the effect of VR on mood disorders. A recently published review of research in the area concluded:

Findings favor VR exercise in alleviating anxiety and depression symptomology. However, existing evidence is insufficient to support the advantages of VR exercise as a standalone treatment over traditional therapy in the alleviation of anxiety and depression given the paucity of studies, small sample sizes, and lack of high-quality research designs. Future studies may build upon these limitations to discern the optimal manner by which to employ VR exercise in clinical settings.

So more research work needs to be done. Based on my own experience, and stories I have heard from others, I wouldn’t be surprised if/when scientists do discover some sort of benefit to using VR as a form of therapy for those who suffer from depression and anxiety. Perhaps some day soon, your mental health professional may prescribe a VR app instead of (or in addition to) anti-depressant medication and talk therapy!

And if you are suffering from a mood disorder, there’s absolutely no shame in reaching out for help. Doing so has made all the difference in my life. If I can survive, so can you!

UPDATE May 5th: Today I just read a great talk by actor Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation) who is open and candid about his own lifelong struggles with anxiety and depression. He says:

So I am here today to tell anyone who can hear me: if you suspect that you have a mental illness, there is no reason to be ashamed, or embarrassed, and most importantly, you do not need to be afraid. You do not need to suffer. There is nothing noble in suffering, and there is nothing shameful or weak in asking for help. This may seem really obvious to a lot of you, but it wasn’t for me, and I’m a pretty smart guy, so I’m going to say it anyway: There is no reason to feel embarrassed when you reach out to a professional for help, because the person you are reaching out to is someone who has literally dedicated their life to helping people like us live, instead of merely exist.


If you are currently experiencing a mental health or addictions related crisis:

If you are not in crisis, but still need help, here are some other good places to get started:

When you absolutely need someone to talk to online, one of the best places to try is The KindVoice subReddit and Discord channel, both of which are staffed by volunteers: “Sometimes we need to hear a human voice on the other end of the line telling us that everything’s going to be ok. This subreddit is for people that aren’t in a suicidal crisis, but feel depressed, alone, or want someone to talk to.”


Whatever you do, don’t give up. NEVER. Give. Up!

UPDATE June 19th: There is now a new official KindVoice Discord server. The original server I linked to above still exists as a service, but it is now called Zen Gardens. Both seem like pretty good places to go if you just need someone to talk to online.