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The Last Crash: As crypto prices fall, traders train each other to stop suicides

A Facebook group admin finds himself going from trading advice to trying to save lives

As crypto prices fall, traders train each other to stop suicides (via Shutterstock)

As crypto prices fall, traders train each other to stop suicides (via Shutterstock)

Four years ago, Autumn Radtke was an American living in Singapore. At just 28 years old, she was CEO of one of the earliest crypto exchanges, First Meta. In a corner of the tech world where few women are prominent, she was making a name for herself.  

On February 25, 2014, the website for the Mt. Gox exchange suspended all trading as news emerged that 744,408 bitcoins—worth more than $400 million at the time—were stolen in Japan. The news depressed crypto markets around the world. A day later, police discovered Radtke’s body. As was later reported, she had googled suicide methods, found which one she thought was most effective, and then leapt to her death from a 16th floor balcony. Singapore’s Coroner’s Court found that Radtke had been “determined to end her life and made concerted efforts toward facilitating this outcome.”

Autumn Radtke was the first confirmed suicide victim of the crypto era.

Since then, many in the crypto community have found themselves as amateur suicide hotline operators. But Ross Rinaldo, a moderator of the 100,000-strong Crypto Coin Trader Facebook Group, has had enough. Of all the ways to passively accumulate crypto tips—Telegram, Twitter, Reddit—joining a Facebook group often seems like signing yourself up to hear other people’s problems. It’s difficult determining the signal from the noise, but Rinaldo is done with jokes about suicide.

Just FYI, I’m deleting any and every post that jokes about suicide. This isn’t the place for that kind of stuff. We won’t have it, ” Rinaldo wrote in a post on March, 19, 2018.

He then made himself available to everyone in the 100,000 user community. “If you’ve invested, and lost a bunch of money and are contemplating suicide come talk to me or any of the other mods/admins here. If we don’t respond quickly enough and you need immediate assistance please reach out to your friends and family, or give the suicide hotline a try, 1-800-273-8255. It’s not worth permanently checking out over.”

Rinaldo also listed moderators in several time zones, just in case he missed a message. The surprising moment came later in a wave of support from the group.

“Even if you’re feeling down and it has nothing to do with money, come talk to me! It’s not a joke when we talk about Community here, you are a part of this and we care about you,” posted Rinaldo.

Earlier this year, we reported that a Russian crypto hedge fund even started a “bitcoin anxiety hotline” for people dealing with stress and addiction issues. The collapse of Bitconnect in January left many others dealing with unimaginable stress.

There is something about the mostly male, mostly isolated world of crypto trading that can leave users feeling more like gamers than traders. Lose a game of Halo and you only have yourself to blame. Lose a week’s paycheck to a scam like Bitconnect and you might feel the same. In most forums, you will find few sympathetic ears and fewer sympathetic thoughts.

“Because people are doing this from their homes, they’re not on the trading floor, they’re not trained or prepared to take losses,” Rinaldo told Modern Consensus. “They likely hear only the success stories because very few people share their failures.”

You don’t get this kind of caring from the ‘crypto for blokes’ group on facebook,” one user commented. “They’re in the stone ages and still think it’s a dog eat dog world.”

Of course some users of the armchair variety pushed back that this was best left to authorities. One naysayer in the thread poo-pooed the idea. “If somebody saying they will commit suicide report it to the authorities not “come talk to me or any other mods/admins” ‘ I do not think that you have necessary skills to deal with something like that,” he wrote.  

But which ones? If a Russian trader logs on in a Thai internet café saying she wants to end it all, who do you call?

However,  Rinaldo was having none of it. The admin self-identified as a person who worked for over 12 years in emergency response, first as a fire department EMT and then as a police officer (he now works for a security and investigation company).

“I’m not even going to say that I can solve all their problems,” said Rinaldo. But I absolutely can be a listening ear, a source of guidance and wisdom, and I can encourage them to services that will help them. You don’t have to be a trained professional to stop someone from hurting themselves.”

That sentiment soon caught fire in the group.

“After I posted that I had a person contact me who borrowed money to invest to try and flip so he could pay his parents’ medical bill,” Rinaldo told us today via FB Messenger. “Now he’s very upside down on it and lives in an impoverished area of the world. People would rather judge him for ‘investing what he couldn’t afford to lose’ but fail to see what few other options he might have.”

The response turned positive, “If you’ve never found out about someone you care about committing suicide while you’re scrolling Facebook you’re lucky,” one group member responded. “It sucks.”

This year, even the U.S. Congress admitted that the cryptomarkets made the stock market gains look non-existent. Exchanges fluctuate so much day to day that it is a wonder many traders stay in the game. But the stress of that hasn’t gone unnoticed within the community.

The truth is, the markets are crazy and they can make any kind of behavior seem rational. But it makes you want to check in with those who took out a mortgage to buy more bitcoin in December, when prices were double what they are today.

While other speculators were jubilant, one user took to Reddit in December to share the story of his brother’s alleged bitcoin related suicide. The details he shared appeared to line up with others who lost big during the Mt. Gox hack. “If there’s any more of you in a similar situation feel free to PM me. Please try to recognize there are endless economic opportunities in life and [one] mistake doesn’t define your future. There are family and friends who care about you and will listen.”

Luckily Rinaldo is not only a seasoned trader, but a trained emergency responder. He shared with Modern Consensus this four part response to traders who want to end it all:

  1. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has had bad trades.
  2. If you’re down due to a dip, don’t worry it will come back. Regardless of what the talking heads say.
  3. There are people that care about you and they’re willing to help you. It’s going to be alright. The only thing that can’t be remedied is death.
  4. Think of the things you might miss, for me it’s FOMO on monumental scientific discoveries.

But how positive has it been? “Extremely positive. That post is the closest to viral any of my post have ever been,” Rinaldo said.

Still, how can he be so chill when others in the group really do sound unhinged about the price of Ripple’s XRP token?

“I’ve often spoken of my successes where I made $4,000 in 12 hours but I don’t talk about how I lost $6,000 in a month. Or perhaps, more importantly, why I’m not concerned about the loss because I’m confident that I’ll recover it,” he said. “I invested an amount that was outside of my normal income. My goal was to hit a number to make me debt free, when I hit that number I cashed out 90 percent of my portfolio and paid off almost all of my debts. Now, when the market dips I don’t really care because I’ve already dramatically improved my quality of life and I’m not as emotionally invested as I was.”

Many group members found their admin’s post very refreshing, “As one who has lost a couple of friends and contemplated [suicide] myself, I have became resilient and I can help too if anyone needs it.” one woman said, “Thank you for making this post!”

Other members of the group began to crowdsource help resources in other countries, which we will leave below. Please comment any resources in your country we may have missed:

 

USA: text crisis text line at 741741.

Malaysia: Befriender (24 hours) @ 603-79568145 / sam@befrienders.org.my

One user posted, “If anyone is feeling like they can’t go on, or life isn’t worth it. Please watch this inspiring performance, & then call the number.” The link was to a performance at the VMAs by Logic of his song whose title is the US national Suicide Hotline, “1-800-273-8255.

Brendan Sullivan is a writer, producer, and author of the memoir Rivington Was Ours: Lady Gaga, the Lower East Side, and the Prime of Our Lives. Disclosure: he owns cryptocurrencies. Follow him on Twitter.