(Apologies for errors or sloppiness in this post, it was written quickly and emotionally.)

Marisa committed suicide earlier this month. She suffered for years from a cruel mental illness, but that will not be her legacy–her legacy will be the enormous amount of suffering she alleviated for others. In her short life she worked with Rethink Charity, the Legal Priorities Project, co-founded EA Anywhere, and volunteered with many more impactful organizations. Looking to further scale her impact she completed most of a Master of Public Policy degree at Georgetown.

Marisa was relentless. Even among the impressive cohort of young EAs, she had a diligence and work ethic that amazed and inspired. She got things done. She was also wickedly funny. Even while suffering deeply, she could make me cry with laughter.

If you are reading this while struggling, I promise you are only one comment or IM message away from those who want to help. You are not alone, and you are never a burden. Please reach out. There are also great resources such as EA Peer Support, the EA Mental Health Navigator, and more that I hope others can list in the comments. [Edit to link].

Sometimes the mental illness wins, but that does not mean Marisa did not fight like hell, or that she did not have an incredible community of people helping her. I want to extend my sincere gratitude to these people. The reflexive selflessness, patience, and care they showed for Marisa exceeds anything I have ever seen. Over hours, days, weeks, and years they provided love and support far beyond what most can expect even from their families. They extended my understanding of what it can mean to be human.

Many of us are in a lot of pain right now. It will come in waves that slowly fade. It will mostly pass. In 26 years, Marisa had more impact than most will have in a lifetime. That is forever.

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I’d like for Marisa to be remembered for all the many ways she contributed to the EA Community, and the causes we all care about. 

She contributed in so many ways, that I know I’m going to miss a bunch of things. I guess that was one striking feature of Marisa – she saw things that needed to be done, or heard people’s requests for help or advice, and she didn’t hesitate to leap in to help. In particular, she did an impressive amount to help us be a welcoming, inclusive and supportive community for newcomers to EA and to people of backgrounds underrepresented in EA. 


I think she really embodied the EA principles. Many of the things she did were unpaid, unglamorous, and sometimes tedious. But she took on all these tasks with eagerness because they were important and needed doing. 

 

This is certainly not a full list - please feel free to add more information if you know it. 

  • In her early EA days (2017) Marisa volunteered at Rethink Charity, helping out across a number of Rethink Charity projects, and was hired part time to work on operations. We could throw her a wide variety of problems and could deeply trust that she’d somehow manage to work them all out.
  • During this time she studied Sociology at Loyola University in New Orleans (with a semester in Ghana), and wrote an undergrad thesis on Value Drift in EA. This was shared and discussed a bunch over the years and was awarded an EA Forum prize. She also spent some time during this period in Uganda, volunteering at an agricultural development charity. 
  • When she finished her degree, she worked full time at Rethink Charity – keeping the org running smoothly; helping run RC Forward, a charity that allows Canadian donors to donate to the world’s most effective charities; and Giving Tuesday coordination, among other things.  
  • Alongside her work she helped coordinate ops information sharing through Ops Slack, offered her time readily to have calls and EAG meetings with community members interested in working in ops.  
  • She helped run a bunch of online things during Covid, including the EA Student Summit (a 2 day online conference during Covid), and EAGxAsia-Pacific. 
  • She volunteered for ALLFED doing operations work.
  • With SamiM, she started EA Anywhere, a virtual group for people who don't live near or can't attend local EA group meetups. She mostly ran this in her free time – running online meetups, having 1:1s with folks new to EA, and coordinating the other EA Anywhere volunteers. She secured funding in order to hire a new full time community organiser (Sasha) so she could work on other things.
  • On the back of her experience with EA Anywhere, she worked part time for several months with me on the CEA Groups team, creating resources for EA Groups and writing the monthly EA Groups Newsletter. 
  • In the last few years Marisa studied for a Masters in Public Policy at Georgetown University in DC, while also 


 

To expand on what is written here about Marisa's role with ALLFED, I would like to add that when Marisa volunteered with us a few years ago, she contributed in several meaningful ways. She was actively engaged in our work exploring the intersection of catastrophic risk, social sciences, and humanities. Marisa also provided invaluable feedback on how we could improve our volunteer program at the time. Her thoughtful suggestions were incredibly helpful and demonstrated just how much she cared. I remember our calls being filled with a lot of joy, laughter, and the desire to do good. 

I was so sorry to learn this.

Some other resources:
5 steps to help someone who may be suicidal
Crisis resources around the world

Years ago Marisa was the first person to put in an application for several EA Globals, to where I was curious if she had some kind of notification set up. I asked her about it once, and she was surprised to hear that she’d been first; she was just very keen.

I’m devastated by this news. From the first time I worked with Marisa, 7 years ago, it was clear she had a deep compassion for others (human and animal), an ability to authentically connect with a wide range of people, a sharp mind, fantastic sense of humour, and unwavering motivation. 

During these last couple of years where Marisa was desperately unwell, I always hoped that she would one day hit on some successful treatment for her agonising illness and she’d make her way back to the optimistic, future focussed, extraordinarily driven person I first got to know and love.

It is just so sad – for her, for all those who cared about her, and for those lives she was yet to touch. My heart goes out to all her friends, family, her former colleagues, and her dog Chance.

 


Marisa with a dog (a different dog, not Chance)

This is Chance

Marisa at an EA Anywhere meetup.

 

Marisa was a beautiful soul who found great joy in helping others. As an exceptional generalist, I was confident that she would become a great operational leader once she was able to find inner peace.

Marisa began her journey with Rethink Charity as a volunteer and quickly became a fundamental part of the team. The two years she spent working on this project before starting grad school were transformational for RC. Marisa made me a better leader, and I am eternally grateful for the friendship we built.

The lockdowns were especially tough on Marisa, and I had hoped that moving to DC would offer her the fresh start she needed. I always looked forward to our dinner catch-ups during my visits, and it deeply saddens me to know we will never get the chance to do that again.

My heart goes out to Marisa’s family, friends, and everyone in our community mourning this loss. She will always be remembered.

do you know if Marisa exclusively used they/them pronouns, or she/they, or what? I remember hearing something about this but I'm not certain and can't find any online profiles anymore :(

Marisa told me last fall that she'd settled on she/her, so that's what I've been using.

This is helpful! We hadn't spoken about pronoun preferences for a while, and the last time we did, Marisa used she/they. With some uncertainty, I wanted to ensure I was being respectful.

Deeply saddened to hear this. We worked together on Rethink Charity. This loss is incredibly painful.

Thank you Carrick. Marisa was my entry point into the EA community in 2020. She was the volunteer ambassador that was assigned to me during EAGxVirtual that year. She made me feel comfy (a word she liked) sharing my doubts and insecurities, and then suggested I started volunteering with Rethink Charity, where she was working. Marisa had a significant impact on me as a colleague and as a friend. I'm moved by how all of you describe her in the comments. As you say, she was compassionate, funny, dedicated, friendly, thoughtful, smart, proactive, reliable, kind, honest. I'm devastated that she is gone and will be processing this for some time. Thank you Marisa for all the lives that you touched, known and unknown to you, in your brutally short time with us. 

I cried when I read this. What an absolutely miserable thing to have happened.

Marisa was a wonderfully kind, thoughtful and supportive person. She was one of the first friends I made in EA many years ago, and I felt I'd found a kindred spirit in her - we exchanged many ideas and about sociology, ops, community building. She gave wonderfully helpful feedback and I always enjoyed learning about what she was up to (always something new!).

I'm so saddened and heartbroken by this news. She deserved so much more.

It's heartbreaking. My unmistakable sense of Marisa is that she had the kind of soul that we need in this world. It's hard to accept living in a reality that can feel so inhospitable to someone like that. 

It was an honor to have shared a small part of my life alongside a person that clearly left a lasting beautiful impression on so many people, evidenced by Carrick's loving post, Catherine's heartwarming pictures & comments, and the other outpouring of grief from those who knew her. 

Marisa was a beloved and critical member of the Rethink Charity team for years. Quoting what I'd said before when she moved on at the time in 2021: 

However impactful we feel RC has been over the years, much of that was made possible due to the operational foundations designed and delivered by Marisa Lynne. (Oh how a swiftly worded phrase encompasses years of dedication, sweat, tears, etc.)

They came out of seemingly nowhere as this industrious young powerhouse who just wanted to help, distinguishing themselves as a volunteer to such a degree that we simply had to have them on the team. The EA community more broadly is surely also better for it.

Some years later, their blend of heart, desire and applied intellect is still rare for me to encounter in people much their senior.

So here's to you, Marisa. It was an honor to be on this mission with you. I'm sure there's a lot of greatness and (more importantly IMO) goodness ahead for you

God speed!

I have so many futile wishes about all of this. The last few days have been about trying to pay her life respect by how I think about the time we shared and what her struggle might have been like. My thoughts are with anyone who was close with her. 

I don't know what to say, this is so incredibly sad. The times I ran the volunteer moderation team with her at an early EAGxVirtual were a great experience - she was so uplifting, friendly, supportive, and fun to work with. I thought I saw a post of hers a couple of weeks ago that she was going to start an internship in government (I could be wrong about this) and I was so glad to see that. I think I may also have seen a post in which she mentioned struggling with her mental health (I could also be wrong about this, I can't find any of this now) and I can't believe I didn't reach out, although it may not have made a difference. I am devastated and so, so sorry. All my love to her close friends and family, and so much sadness for the wonderful person she was that had to suffer so much.

This is devastating to find out. My interactions with Marisa were very limited but quite significant to me.

I rescued a two-month street kitten while on the EA Zanzibar residency. When I got back stateside, she tested (faint) positive for a disease and my partner did not want to risk exposing the other cats to her. I urgently needed to find a place to stay with her while we waited to re-test her, and I was running out of options.

I had only met Marisa once in-person before. A mutual friend suggested talking to her. She was visiting family for the Easter weekend and let me stay with my kitten at her place. Marisa was invaluable in that moment of personal crisis for me.

Sometimes I try to imagine the friend of mine I would be least surprised to have very poor mental health or to be suicidal and then I see how that person is doing. 

I've known Marisa for a few years and had the privilege of briefly working with her. I was really impressed by her drive and excitement. She seemed deeply driven and was incredibly friendly to be around. 

This will take me some time to process. I'm so sorry it ended like this. 

She will be remembered.

We are deeply saddened to hear the news of the passing of Marisa, a valued former volunteer of ALLFED. Marisa’s dedication and contributions touched many lives and made an impact on our community. Our heartfelt condolences go out to her family and friends at this time. 

I am deeply saddened, devastated, and heartbroken by this news. Marisa was the very first person in the EA space that I met few years back and we have remained in touch since then. We collaborated on a few projects together over the years and she has had a huge impact on me personally. Truthfully, if it wasn't for Marisa, I am not sure if I would be a member of the EA space today. She was one of the kindest, thoughtful, patient, and most generous individuals I have ever had a chance to meet. We have just lost a wonderful and amazing soul, but Marisa's work, efforts, and everything she has done, will stay with us forever. 

My heart and thoughts go to Marisa's family, friends, Chance, all the other loved ones, and all of us who are mourning Marisa's passing [*]. 

I never met Marissa, in fact I never even heard of her until today. But this is an incredibly tragic end to an incredible life – that she died so young, and that what she suffered through was enough to make her think death was worth it. But this suffering and this death is part of the fight she joined us in, with great dedication. When things like this happen within the community I can’t help but think of a quote from Yudkowky’s writing on his own brother’s death,

“When Michael Wilson heard the news, he said: ‘We shall have to work faster.’ Any similar condolences are welcome. Other condolences are not.”

While this seems too strong to me, and I think of this sentiment in the context of suffering, not just death, I think it’s ultimately my source of solace and motivation in times like these. Her suffering and death can’t be undone, but we can continue the fight for what she cared about and against what took her, and her loss is a reminder that we shall have to work faster.

I don’t have much to add here, except for two things.

This post asks for mental health resources for other EAs struggling. The main thing I can offer along these lines is related to addiction – I founded a server for EAs struggling with addiction, if anyone here thinks this can be helpful for their own struggles:

https://discord.gg/W8sFnNEbdT

It isn’t very active right now, but I will continue maintaining it, and starting up meetings where possible. You can also ask for advice, vent, or celebrate accomplishments on the text channels, even without the meetings. If this isn’t of interest, feel free to reach out to me directly, and I can try to offer comfort, advice, and resources where possible. I recently made a sequence of my writings on this subject that contain hopefully useful insights about addiction as well. I have less experience with other mental health difficulties, but feel free to reach out anyway if you want someone to talk to.

Finally, because many people here have shared suicide prevention resources, I feel compelled to address maybe the unspoken barrier many people have in reaching out on time. If you are scared of losing control, being involuntarily detained and institutionalized, and are avoiding frank discussion or treatment, please at least reach out to a hotline using a concealed IP address. Absent this, I’ve consulted an anonymous psychiatrist for advice on this worry, and was told that even if your psychiatrist or the hotline try to call the police on you, there is almost never a manhunt, so you can always just hang out at the park for a few hours and most likely be in the clear. This is not discouragement from getting more thorough treatment, I’ve been to inpatient and found it helpful, it is encouragement to get treatment even if you have these fears. They are common worries, and you can get around them while still getting help in many cases, so please try. Your life is at stake after all.

I met Marisa at EAG London in 2019. We had approximately weekly calls afterwards during the lockdown that I greatly enjoyed. That and all the virtual events helped me connect with the rest of the EA world – probably more so than in-person events. Sadly, I missed one of our calls, which prompted me to set up a comprehensive reminder solution that I use to this day. 

When we supported each other again in the context of some job applications a few years later, I learned that she had just survived a very difficult phase of her life. Then, as now, I wish I had known and had been able to support her in some fashion.

When you lose hope in humanity and x-risk reduction seems pointless, she’s the sort of existence proof that keeps you going.

I am shocked and saddened. I did not know Marisa well but we were in the same EA Anywhere discussion group for several months. As you said she was quite funny and I enjoyed talking with her and hearing her ideas. 

I didn't know her personally. Her recent post about antipsychiatry research made me bit worried so I wrote to her privately with a proposition to talk about my experiences in the topic. I followed up few days ago... and now such news. It makes me feel sad, powerless and frustrated at the same time.

This is truly crushing news. I met Marisa at a CFAR workshop in 2020. She was open, kind, and grateful to everyone, and it was joyful to be around her. I worked with her a bit revitalizing the EA Operations Slack Workspace in 2020, and had only had a few conversations with her since then, here and there at EA events. Marisa (like many young EAs) made me excited for a future that would benefit from her work, ambition, and positivity. Now she's gone. She was a good person, I'm glad she was alive, and I am so sad she's gone.

Still reeling from this news...

While her other accomplishments were far more important, Marisa also had an outsized impact on me personally. Early on, she helped me consider going into a career in operations. Later, we worked together on EA Anywhere, and she pointed me towards— and encouraged me to apply for— my job at FEM.

In the time that I knew her, she was unfailingly helpful and kind. My heart breaks for her, and all those who were close to her. She will be missed.

I worked with Marisa for several years on EA Giving Tuesday, during which time she provided valuable support to the project. I regret that I had not kept in touch with Marisa for a number of years after that, and was both surprised and sad to learn about this news.

I’ve often thought of Marisa as an inspiring example of someone who is so clearly driven by helping others. In the little I saw of her, that drive shined through everything she did and said.

I’m grateful for having met her.

I'm sorry; I'll keep her, and those close to her, in my prayers.

Marisa did such a great job with EA Anywhere. She inspired and encouraged me to become a group organizer myself. She'll be sorely missed.

I knew Marissa briefly while they were running EA Anywhere, it was one of my first points of contact with the EA community given I was living somewhere without much of an EA presence at the time. This is painful news to hear. May they rest in peace.

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