10 things NOT to tell someone who is suicidal (and what you can say instead)

There is nothing as dreadful, as scary, as heart-wrenching as hearing someone say the words,

“I want to kill myself”

These are words you do not want to hear, at all. What do you do from that point? How do you help? What do you say, and more importantly, what shouldn’t you say? As scary as this scenario is, hearing this words is a subtle gift that a friend who is struggling gives. It is their way of crying for help, it is their way of giving you an opportunity to help in their journey, as hard as it is. Your response is critical as it could either be an doorway to healing, or it could be the end as they know it. Granted, it is an emotional moment and you may not be sure how to respond. Below are 10 common (cliché, need I add?) responses that only make it harder for suicidal people to speak up and ask for help.

NOTE: While these responses/questions are generally deemed to cast judgement on the affected, a number of people may respond in the positive. Secondly, in as much as you can help by been present, it is important to get medical attention immediately. Do not hesitate to do so. Check out this page that has suicide crisis helplines in Kenya.


  1. “Suicide is for weaklings”

The truth of the matter is, by the time someone is getting to the point of struggling with suicidal thoughts, they have already gone through so much. By the time one is searching on how to die by suicide, all rationality is gone and that statement is a cry for help. Saying suicide is for weaklings invalidates their feelings and only causes one who is struggling to keep to themselves – with dire consequences.

Instead: You can let them know you care instead. Assure them of your love and compassion. Be present. Stay with them. Offer a hug – it creates a safe space for someone who is suicidal


  1. “It is all in your head – snap out of it”

This is another common response given from an ignorant point of view. Depression and suicide are conditions that affect the mind. The mind does get sick, just as the physical body does. Do we tell people suffering from diabetes to snap out of it? There you have it. Additionally, people who are not aware of mental health illnesses have the warped view that suicidal people are doing it for ‘attention’ – which is absolutely wrong.

Instead: It is better to admit that you may not understand what they are going through, but that you will offer to be present and seek help for them.

Read More: The hardest post I ever had to write


  1. “You should be grateful. There are people who have it worse”

I hate to burst the bubble, but someone who is suicidal has likely thought about that already – and it feels like they can never measure up. This only adds to their brokenness because, while they are well aware they ought to be grateful, their mind just cant reconcile that with the utter hopelessness and emptiness that they feel.

Instead: Show empathy. You may not understand, but that doesn’t give you permission to be insensitive.


  1. “Suicide is selfish. Think about your family/kids/loved ones”

Suicide is NOT selfish.

Suicide is NOT selfish.

And there’s a reason why. Suicidal people genuinely feel worthless and absolutely hopeless. They feel like there’s nothing to leave for, and worst of all, feel like a burden to the very people you are asking them to think about. The mind convinces them the world would be a better place without them. Telling them suicide is selfish not only invalidates their struggle, it also makes it less likely to ask for help again.

Instead: Ask how to help, find out what they need and check up on them constantly.


  1. “But your life is not that bad, how can you think of suicide?”

Truth is that there are invisible scars that suicidal people carry which you may never ever get to see. The pain is underneath – whether it is getting molested by an uncle, getting raped by a work colleague, losing one’s family or even a still birth. On the outside, it may seem all okay, but the pains and ache remain etched in their minds forever. Asking how someone can think of suicide speaks of disbelief and judgement, not empathy.

Instead: sometimes, all you can do is listen and be present.

Read More: Broken

  1. “You are not praying enough”

I can’t stop saying it, but, this is simply belittling someone’s struggles. It is likely that the depression/ mental health condition that has gotten them to the point of been suicidal has not allowed them to be able to pray in the first place. Telling someone they have not prayed enough/ do not have faith is just judgemental.

Instead: Consider affirming your love and support to someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. Taking a minute can save a life.


  1. “You will go to hell”

Regardless of one’s religion, telling someone they will go to hell when they are suicidal only enhances the feeling of isolation and loneliness (which in many cases, only pushes them over the edge). In any case, the judgemental attitude does not show any compassion or empathy.

Instead: It helps to assure a suicidal person that their thoughts are not permanent (even if the person believes that they are), and then to offer a listening ear without any judgement. This offers hope and communicates empathy.


  1. “ Don’t do anything stupid”

This is a very dismissive response for the simple reason that it takes away from the importance and the urgency of someone’s struggles. Often, such a statement only alienates a person even more. You may be worried/ concerned – rightly so, but whatever you do, don’t dismiss it as simply stupidity.

Instead: You may ask, “I have heard you mention suicide, and I am concerned about you. Are you safe? I want to reach out to you, know I am here for you”


  1. “How’d you want to hurt me like that?”

First, this is not about you. Secondly, it is likely that someone who is suicidal knows that their absence is going to hurt you and their loved ones. It already makes them feel terrible. Getting them on a guilt trip is counterproductive, and often exacerbates the alienation.

Instead:  You could say, I am sorry that you are struggling and hurting. But I will be here for you. You matter. You mean a lot (to me)


  1. Aaaand finally, one of the most cliché statements: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

At face value, this statement ‘sounds’ right, but a closer look reveals it is a fallacy, a popular one at that. First, the statement seems to suggest that suicide is a ‘solution’, and also belittles one’s problem as merely temporary. What of chronic mental health disorders, lifetime diseases and emotional scars?

The bottomline: When someone opens up to you about suicide ideation, it means that they have found a safe space in you. Responding harshly not only makes it harder to speak up, it also alienates them further. Granted, you may feel disappointed, hurt, embarrassed, even betrayed – but how you respond can make a big difference.

PS: This article was inspired by my last post which you can read here. I am, by no means, a health expert, but I struggled with suicide ideation and thoughts of harming my baby when I had Postpartum Depression. Some of the above statements are things I was told when I shared about my thoughts – and I switched off. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel alienated in their struggle with depression, so I put up this list with insight from the following websites:

Speaking of suicide

Purple Persuasions

The Mighty Site


PS: Do not struggle alone, reach out for help. Use the contact page or get in touch through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram







Here is what inspired the name ‘PPDIsland’

Recently, I was thinking about the growth and progress of this blog, how it started. I started on a random domain name that I cannot even remember, after lots of persuasion to tell my story in the hopes that it would help another mom – thanks Ian for believing in me 🙂 – then I moved to my old website hosted on wordpress.com before finally getting on here.

It has been an amazing journey – there are many days I wanted to give up really, like that time I had a depressive episode in April, and I was struggling with parenting. At some point, I asked myself, what was the point of sharing and baring it all if I couldn’t hold myself together? And then I realized, there is subtle beauty in vulnerability that allows me to say, you know what, I am imperfect, I am struggling and I am not OK. It is OK not to be OK, and to reach out for help. I did reach out for help, and I am glad part of my inner circle came through.  I am in a beautiful phase of my life, gratefully.

Read More: The Place of Vulnerability

So, back to today’s post, I realized I have never shared why I settled on ‘PPD Island’ as the name of the blog. PPD, as you may have figured by now, stands for Postpartum Depression. For new readers on the blog, Postpartum Depression is a form of depression that affects moms up to one year after childbirth. You can read more about the symptoms and treatment options available.

I settled on Island because it is exactly how motherhood felt in those first few years. My son is now 5 going on 15 (what with the independence and assertion that he can make his own decisions? – welp!), and those first two years were incredibly lonely. I felt isolated from my circle of friends. I felt like I was the only one struggling with motherhood. Why did all those moms out there seem so happy and content with life while here I was clutching onto the hope that I could make it through the next hour? What was this dark phase that made it easy to have such intrusive and horrible thoughts of harming me and my son?

Read More: The hardest post I ever wrote

I sank into depression, slowly but surely. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t bond with my son. I would sit to nurse him and feel… nothing. Feel numb. I was only feeding because my boobs would ache, and well, I had to. But that special bond, was not there. He’d cry, I’d cry in frustration. I knew something was wrong the day I slapped him, and I wrote about that here.

Over the years, I eventually got help, so when I started this blog, there was no better name to give it than PPDIsland. The tag line for this blog is ‘…and why moms need not feel alone’. Islands are lonely, set out at sea, and that’s how PPD feels. I started this blog to speak up for struggling moms, to give a voice to moms who may not be in a position to talk about their dark days, and most of all, to reduce the stigma associated with PPD.


Featured Image

Family TV Interview on Postpartum Depression

On 18th October I made my way to Family Media Studios for my first ever interview on Postpartum Depression (PPD) as a survivor. To say I was not a bundle of nerves would be to put it lightly. I was anxious, largely because, while my blog is public, there’s a degree of vulnerability that comes along with your story aired on TV. I had already made up my mind; I was not going to back out.

The interview was for a local TV show, Family Health. The crew working on the show were amazing to say the least, and that made settling a whole lot easier for me. I shared intimate details of my struggle with PPD over the years after my son’s birth, talked about my therapy sessions which you can read about here and here, as well as finally setting out to create an online platform to sensitize more people on PPD – that’s @PPDKenya on Twitter.

This is the first of many in this advocacy journey, and I can only look forward with enthusiasm. I cannot end this post without thanking the amazing people who made it happen in partnership with Psychiatric Disability Organization (PDO)** Kenya. Great working with Iregi M,director PDO as well as the Family TV crew – Eunice, Ken, Davis and Leo.

Thank you too to everyone who did watch and send so much love and light my way. You guys are amazing! And to the moms who got hope after the episode aired, and continue to trudge forward even though PPD seeks to make them think otherwise, you are the reason I do this.

You can watch the show on YouTube by clicking here.


NOTE: Psychiatric Disability Organization (PDO) Kenya is a community based organization that assists the people with mental illnesses to build better lives through access to proper diagnosis and treatment, social integration and skills development. Check out their website here and link up on Facebook too.

UPDATE: This past weekend, two dailies published my Postpartum Depression story. Both Saturday Standard and People Daily featured the story which you can read here and here. It is incredibly humbling to be able to have such platforms that are able to reach many more people, and to give moms courage to step out and get the help they need.




This is such a candid post by Eve Kibare. It is a sober reminder that many people are silently struggling with depression. As she aptly puts it, “When your friend stops hanging out, visiting, showing up, picking up calls, secluding themselves from people, go an extra mile and just check up on them instead. Maybe they just need to find a reason to fight again. Show them the reason to fight again. Help a friend with depression. Hold their hand until they can walk on their own but never stop caring it can come back and it is amongst us.”

My Nomination for The Liebster Award

The Liebster award is an award for bloggers by bloggers, and is therefore given on the internet. It is an award that allows bloggers to connect to the community. ‘liebster’ is a German word that means ‘sweet’ or ‘nice’. The awards were first given in 2011, and have since grown in popularity with the blogging community. If you would like to read more on the Liebster 2016 awards, check out this post by The Global Aussie.

I was nominated by Alexandria, the beautiful lady who blogs about her travel experiences with such a personal touch (her latest adventures in Ecuador seem so much fun!). Thank you Alexandria.

In summary, the rules for this year’s nominations are as follows:

Rules for The Liebster Award Nomination are simple:

  1. Mention and thank the blog that nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions created for you by the blog that nominated you.
  3. Nominate about 5-11 other new bloggers.
  4. Set 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
  5. Send a notification to the bloggers to let them know that you’ve nominated them.

Alexandria’s questions for me:

1. Why did you start your blog?

I started this blog as a platform to share my experience with Postpartum Depression (PPD). I live in Kenya, and this is one of those mental conditions that is really hushed, so I figured perhaps if I shared my story, a mom somewhere will know there is hope after depression; a mom will know that there is nothing wrong with them if they are depressed, and most of all, that they are never alone.

2. What has been your favorite travel location so far? Why?

Favorite travel location has to be Diani beach. There is something magical about pristine beaches, glorious sunrises, the waters and the array of activities to engage in! Now I wanna go back 🙂

3. What food have you been craving the most lately? 

Oat cookies – not food per se, but really… I recently gave up bread because of an expanding waistline (hah!!) so while looking for alternatives, this delish cookies cannot seem to escape my mind.

4. Do you see there ever being an end to your blog?

I have thought about this before, yes really. I wouldn’t say an end, I’d say an evolution. The blog will likely change over the years, but what will remain is that I am true to what I share on here.

5. If you were able to drop everything right now and have the talent to do anything you wanted, what would that talent be?

Acting. Oh, the power of been on stage is so, amazing!!! I miss it!

6. What is the funniest meme you have seen lately? (Feel free to add the picture 🙂

hahaha, has to be the ‘call ended’ memes.

7. How long have you known the friend that you have known longest? 

Since 2002, wow. That’s a decade and a half!!

8. What are three of your dream travel destinations?

  1. Dubai
  2. Capetown
  3. Masai Mara

9. What is your favorite genre of music?

errm, no specific genres, a little bit of everything.

10. If you could meet one person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Barack Obama.

My Nominees:

  1. https://choppingpotatoes.wordpress.com/
  2. http://theadventuresofcathy.com/
  3. https://thebutterflymother.wordpress.com
  4. https://honestmumma.wordpress.com/
  5. http://lifealreadyinprogress.com
  6. http://kawisnippets.com

My Questions to the nominees:

  1. What is the greatest lesson you have learnt during your time as a blogger?
  2. If you had 24 hours to live, what would be in your last diary entry?
  3. Who do you look up to, and why?
  4. What is your favorite holiday destination?
  5. Do you have pets?
  6. If you had a chance to do something with zero inhibitions, what would that be?
  7. What is the one childhood memory you cherish?
  8. What is your best read thus far?
  9. hard copy books or soft copy? Why?
  10. Lastly, what kind of legacy would you like to leave behind?

I look forward to reading your responses!


Love in unlikely quarters

A bouquet of roses, white roses perhaps? Because red is too mainstream,

Decadent chocolate that melts in your mouth,

Exotic getaway, somewhere where the horizon meets the waters creating the perfect sunset,

A Michael Kors handbag, or a Daniel Wellington timepiece, or a sexy pair of Louboutin heels, or…

For the longest time, these were the things in my list of the perfect Valentine gifts. Oh the days of my youth. And while there is nothing wrong with getting or giving these gifts, I learnt something big this past Valentines holiday. This post was birthed, in part, by a friend’s message on Whatsapp (peppered with subtle sarcasm), perhaps buoyed on by the assumption that singles do not get to enjoy this love-all-around holiday, something to the tune of, “So your Valentine? Where were you and your son taken?” (Taken??! )

I thought for a second, whether to reply in jest, complete with a double serving of sarcasm or just to downplay it. I opted to tell her as it was. “I spent my Valentines in Mathare slum in Ngong.”

“Huh, in a slum?” “Yeah, in a slum for a love project to reach out to single moms.”

This took my friend aback, for obvious reasons. Perhaps the expected answer was we were taken to some swanky hotel, and got XYZ… I have no regrets about how I spent my Valentines. See, I was once part of a Bible Study Group, Wives in Waiting-Nairobi Chapter lead by Sitawa Wafula (and no, this is not a group that searches for husbands :D). For the month of February, part of the group’s activities was to reach out through a love project. At the core of this project was the fact that love need not be associated with the flowers and chocolate alone, but that we can share the love we have within.

Spending time with the young single moms, some in their teens, put so much in perspective for me. Sometimes, we fuss over ‘small stuff’, sweating over things which we will not remember in a month’s time, yet all someone somewhere needs is a meal for the day, a pair of shoes for their baby, even just a hug.


For WiW- Nairobi. Photo Credits: Michelle K.

Reaching out to these young moms, sharing with them and getting to hear their stories reminded me of love in unlikely quarters. It reminded me of the love we all have deep within, sometimes covered by layers of worry and anxiety. It brought to mind how a simple act of love can change someone’s life. It brought to life the fact that while I whine and complain about not having somewhere to go for Valentines, someone somewhere would simply love to have the option of going somewhere and not having to engage in hard labor.

And therein lies the beauty. That we all have the capacity to reach out and be a blessing, sometimes in the simplest of ways. We need not wait for someone to ask us out on a date, or be taken (hehehe) someplace exquisite in order to share the love we have. Sometimes, even simply showing up and sharing with these moms is an act of love. This love project was as humbling as it was powerful, a chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus. This was love in unlikely quarters. This was the best Valentines ever.


Holidays with my son

It is the holiday season. If there is one thing that makes this clear, it must be the sheer number of kids in the hoods, the many family functions, and the number of friends who are on leave. Admittedly, this is the second of all school holidays I am actually enjoying, living in the moment. My son started school in January this year. His first school holiday was in April. I became totally disoriented. While he had adapted to his school routine, the holidays disrupted this routine – the result? A confused and flustered kid, and that meant one thing – Tantrums.

The first days were crazy! Yet amid all this, I still had to work. I have mentioned here before that I am a WAHM – a Work At Home Mom. And nothing comes close to making you pull your hair, or socks, than when you are trying to submit a job and the little mammal thinks it’s the perfect time to practice typing letters on your yet-to-be-submitted job. This was such a frustrating period. I remember once I called my friend L (she of the best baby shower I ever attended), and broke down in tears telling her I hated the holiday season for many reasons.

One of the things that she said, and which has stuck with me to-date is that as much as I was in the initial stages of healing from Postpartum Depression, I was still too negative. True to her word, my mind was fixated on the tantrums, the ugly sobs and the heavy hearts. Many days he spent in tears, and I weighed down by guilt. That he’d cry all day made me unsettled, I couldn’t concentrate at work either. The month ended and it was bitter sweet. Bitter because time had elapsed and I still had not found a practical solution or way to go around the whole ‘holiday menace’; sweet because I’d have some more time to weigh the options before me.

August would begin in earnest, and I thought to myself I was now ready for the holiday season. The month flew by with its highs and lows. While it was still better than the April holidays, I had days when all I wanted to do was retreat to a corner and shut the world out. Still, I remembered L’s words: Stop anticipating the bad stuff, and work each day as it comes. There were days when he’d cry for no apparent reason, or I’d lash out at him in a fit of anger, then get burdened by the guilt. But there were also amazing days when the light in his eyes shone all day. Even then, I somewhat dreaded the December school holidays. Not only are they longer, they are also characterized by so many functions and events.

This December, I am glad to say things are oh-so much better. Not perfect – better. Between August and December, I learned what works best for my son and I – routines. J loves routines, solid structures that somewhat prepare him for what to expect. This way, his internal balance remains intact, and my sanity does not fly through the roof. The different routines I have put in place have, so far, worked out pretty well. I am glad I discovered this. I look forward to sharing more about routines that have worked for us in subsequent posts.

Until then, enjoy your December holidays!


This hard.

I have posted severally about healing through the haze of Postpartum Depression. Often I talk to those who read my blog, and I am a little astounded at their perception; the perception that everything is cake, strawberries and a foot massage. That happens severally, no doubt. But there are hard days. There are days tantrums escalate to the nth degree, and the little mammal turns from adorable to downright angry and horrid.

In these moments, everything flies, everything near him, flies towards me. In retrospect, maybe he learnt it from me, when I was chest deep in the murky waters that depression is. Then, I’d feel frustrated and overwhelmed. All these intrusive thought would engulf my mind. The vice-like grip these thoughts had easily flustered me. Then, all alone and a wailing baby, things did fly. Sometimes Many times, things did fly at him; sometimes they flew across the room, just a little above his head. Admittedly, this is hard to write, because ‘normal moms do not do this’, but PPD is a monster altogether.

I have dealt with that aspect of flying things, but I am just wondering to myself, has my son dealt with it? Today I had a total melt-down, like total, downright ugly. Teary, loud sobs and all mucus (I am that one who is in touch with my emotional side. Once in the doldrums of pregnancy, elephantine belly and all I broke down smirk in the middle of the CBD, same ugly crying – little did I know these were the warning signs of full blown PPD much later).

The reason for the meltdown revolved around my son’s discipline, or lack of it thereof. See, when you’ve had PPD, and have had all these ugly self-harming baby-harming thoughts, once you are on the path to healing, you wonder where the line is between disciplining and reliving the experience. As my son kicked me with his wellington boots over his lost toys (which he lost playing, all by himself, SMH) and started to sink his sharp teeth in my skin, I had these flashbacks. Flashbacks of when I beat him because he peed on the floor, of when I’d had these thoughts of hurling him down the staircase, of all the days I beat his defenceless self.

I started to ask myself, much as I was well on the path to healing, what of my son? He was in every way the victim of my depression, the tots who could not defend himself from mommy’s manic phases. No doubt he was affected, to what extent I may never know because he is the normal toddler, behaving and acting like the typical four year old; but what of the emotional scars?

Today, his tantrums in protest of the lost toy opened these PPD wounds, and had me crying for hours. It was hard, it still is. Nothing quite prepares you for motherhood, or depression for that matter. So today, I am taking a step back to evaluate the journey, this time for my son – how to parent him better post-PPD; how to remain firm, yet loving; how to be a better mom. And in it, I am leaning on Jesus – a constant friend, an ever-present help.

Healing through the haze of postnatal depression

This post was originally written as a guest post for MQ. MQ is a charity organization whose main objective is to improve mental health across the globe by enhancing research in the field. This way, people with mental health conditions can lead productive lives.

MQ is all about M-ental Health and Q-uality Life. I am honored to be featured on the organization’s site, and it is my hope that more parents with Postpartum Depression (PPD) will find hope for better days. To find out more of this noble cause visit www.joinmq.org

As the festive season approaches, I cannot help but marvel at the fact that in my son’s almost four years, this is the first Christmas I will be spending, away from the haziness that is postnatal depression. It is as amazing as it is surreal. It brings tears to my eyes, but not the kind of tears that I shed last Christmas. Instead, it is tears of joy, of gratitude, of hope.

Let’s back track a little to 2011. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I knew I’d have loved to be a mom, but it never really crossed my mind that this desire would manifest less than one year later. When I realized I was pregnant, a myriad of thoughts crossed my mind. Part of me was ecstatic at the thought of bringing forth new life. But many of my thoughts revolved around fear and worry. Fear of the unknown, fear that this was the wrong time, worry about how I would provide for him and how I would cope with the demands of motherhood.

At about 5 months of pregnancy, it became apparent that I would be a single parent…

Read the full post here.


Featured Image Photo Credits: Pat Esteve at Ngong WindFarm



It Could be Worse…

He woke up today, sunken eyes, fever and incessant vomiting. With the latter, I was sure he was seriously dehydrated and lacking energy. Nothing remained in his tiny body when he ate or drank; he puked after every single meal. Woke up in a huff, and made my way to the pediatric hospital, a 20-minute drive.

“We need to intervene, quickly, very low blood sugar.” Those were the doctor’s words when they drew his blood to check his vitals after we had finished checkup at the triage section. My background in Biochemistry makes me all too aware of the risks of low blood sugar. At this point, tears welled in my eyes… the thought of the possibilities of the causative agent, and more.

When you have suffered Postpartum Depression (PPD), and are on the journey to healing like I am, there is the tendency to want to seize every single minute of the new phase, away from the haze of depression. Subconsciously, it is as though you are trying to make up for the moments lost to PPD, trying to squeeze in moments of lost joy. This is why when my little guy is sick, I find myself persistently teary; Because the gloom of the sickness is a reminder of moments lost to PPD.

See, my son is a nuclear energy plant, extremely energetic and overall, the life of the party. His energy is akin to the power of a tornado, leaving everything upside down in its wake . When he is sick, he is a pale shadow of himself. All he wants to do is sleep in, and just stare into space. My heart sinks when he is like this. Today was one such day.

After the infusion and anti-emetic drugs however, he started to brighten up, even telling me he prefers to drive the car as opposed to riding his bike (!!). My heart melted. My little man was strong for me, his energy for life peeked through, even in this gloomy condition. As we headed home, I told Jay’s grandpa how hard it is sometimes to watch the little man unwell, he empathized with me before telling me some hard truths.

“It could have been worse,” he said. “Some babies do not make it out of the hospital ward, others are admitted for long periods.” “He is a child, he is gonna grow, so these are just some of the challenges.” I mulled over these words, and realized the need to be grateful even in this hard. Granted, it was a setback, but it was nothing we couldn’t recover from. I am grateful he is better, I am grateful he can play, I am grateful to have the privilege and blessing of accessible and sound health care, I am grateful to realize that in the journey to PPD healing, these are some of the moments that make me appreciate the strides we have made. It could have been worse, but it is not. And that is something to be grateful for.


Photo credits: MyspokenHeart


The past few events this week have been tough for many across the world: Beirut, Bamako, Paris, Nigeria … Terror is increasingly becoming a reality for different nations, sadly so. It is easy to think that these events are far off, and that they happen to ‘those’ people, until reality hits closer home. My heart goes out to the people going through grief following these horrendous attacks. May you find peace and comfort for your hearts.

Featured Image: Limuru sunsets.



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