Ukraine has faced turbulent times over the past few weeks. The current crisis began in November when President Yanukovych rejected financial stabilization talks with the European Union and instead took a bailout from Moscow. Weeks of protests have culminated in the deaths of many protesters and parliament ousting President Viktor Yanukovych, who has fled the capital in Kiev. Elections will likely occur in May, and Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution which toppled Yanukovych a decade ago, is a strong candidate.

While the media spins the protests as a pro-democracy and pro-EU push against a corrupt government, only 43% of Ukranians actually wanted the EU deal, and Yanukovych was actually acting in the favor of the majority. Ukraine has been deeply divided since its independence in 1991. In the country’s east, the majority speak Russian as their first language, where they also have historical and cultural links to Russia. In the west, the Ukrainian-speaking majority would rather see their country identify with Europe and the EU than with Russia.

The conflict in Ukraine is not just an isolated protest against the president or his decision, it may signal a much larger divide in national identity.
Protest events don’t come out of nowhere. They serve as “switchmen” in the development of social movements, existing within a broader context shaped by culture and history.

For more on how sociologists study these kinds of social movements, check out this TSP roundtable.

The recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman has highlighted the resurgence of heroin use and overdoses in the US. Heroin use doubled between 2007 and 2012. Between 2006 and 2010, there was also a 45% increase in lethal overdoses, up to more than 3,000 deaths per year. The death toll continues to grow, and includes more than 80 deaths over the past few weeks as a result of heroin laced with fentanyl.

The rise in heroin use may be linked with the prevalent use of oxycontin and other opiate-based prescription drugs. The crackdown on illicit use of prescription opiates makes them more expensive, and more users have turned to heroin.
Anti-drug campaigns and moral panics in the media may actually have the unintended effect of promoting, not reducing, substance abuse. In fact, a minority of interviewed users reported seeking out the stronger batches of heroin reported in the media.
Solutions to these problems often focus more on treatment and harm-reduction than tough enforcement of drug laws.

For more on harm-reduction approaches, see this recent Public Criminology post.


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After rising steadily over the past decade, suicides across the military have dropped by more than 22% this year. Military suicides began rising in 2006, reaching their highest record in 2009 before leveling off for two years. Defense officials have launched increased efforts to eliminate the stigma of getting help, but are still unsure about what exactly prompts soldiers to take their own lives. While this drop in suicide will be a relief to some, there is no indication whether this is a trend or a one-year anomaly.

Suicidal thoughts among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have been associated with a range of family concerns, strains of leaving for deployment, depression, and direct effects of war such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, perceived social support can help with these effects.
However, the socio-cultural environment is also a crucial element in understanding military suicide. It can act as a cause through the military’s fatalistic masculinity ideology by internalizing individual problems, but also as a solution when soldiers perceive social support for dealing with their strain.