Every day we scan news headlines and social media for items of interest to the field of suicide prevention. Here’s what we found last week:

Lil Wayne Opens Up About Mental Health, Childhood Suicide AttemptComplex
August 15, 2021
**Method warning** Rapper Lil Wayne has opened up about his mental health in the past, and in a recent episode of ‘Uncomfortable Conversations with Emmanuel Acho,’ he recounts his suicide attempt at age 12 and how music and his faith helped him through his struggles. 

Learning from the Vessel: How cities can be designed to prevent suicideFast Company
August 13, 2021
**Method warning** This article discusses what can be done to prevent suicide in public spaces. “In the long run, we need to find ways to include mental health in the design of the places and spaces that surround us,” says Kevin Bennett, a teaching professor of psychology at Penn State Beaver and a fellow at the Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health in London. “People around the world, especially in urban environments, are feeling increasingly isolated and disconnected.”

The pandemic changed the trajectory of America’s overdose and suicide crises Vox
August 12, 2021
Suicides in the US appear to have decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to preliminary numbers, and many are speculating that this decrease is thanks to economic relief that may have helped people’s mental health during a difficult time. Research has shown in the past that suicide generally declines for the duration of a natural disaster or epidemic, however, following the initial relief and ‘pulling together’ of community, suicides tend to increase. “People are very concerned we may see a rise in suicides, once things stabilize,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “When you have a major event like this, there is a lot of attention paid to it. Everyone is concentrated. That may create a sense of support. Then once it’s out of the main news, that disappears. You may feel the neglect, the hopelessness, and the helplessness.”

Prison suicides have been rising for years. Experts fear the pandemic has made it worse.NBC News
August 12, 2021
Prison suicides in the US continue to increase and many who work in prisons worry that the worsening conditions and staff shortages experienced during the pandemic may lead to more suicides. Between 2001 and 2018, there was an 85% increase in prison suicides, but 2020 data has yet to be released. There is also no clean, nationwide data on suicide attempts in prison. Michele Deitch, a senior lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin who studies deaths in custody said, “For the rest of the world, the pandemic has been stressful, and I think people in custody have had that but on steroids. Every issue that we’ve been experiencing has been magnified for them.” For example, many prisons have stopped classes and visits during the pandemic, keeping those incarcerated in their cells and dorms to prevent COVID-19 spread. The use of solitary confinement increased by 500% and COVID-19 killed almost 3,000 people who are incarcerated and prison staff.

China’s mental health system has long been inadequate. Can AI change that?Washington Post
August 12, 2021
Tree Hole Rescue Project is using AI to scan posts on Weibo, a social media platform popular in China, for users who may be at high risk of suicide. When a user is flagged by the algorithm, volunteers message the user, call their relatives or employers, and sometimes alert police. The Project has saved lives, but Xiaoduo Fan, lead of the China Mental Health Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School says that China needs much more mental health support to prevent suicide. In China, there are 2 psychiatrists per 100,000 residents, compared with 10 in the US. A Shanghai research centre recently found that at least 400,000 mental health professionals would be needed to fill the gap. “There’s like a few drops of rain for this large country,” Fan said. “The potential [of AI], in theory, is very promising. But there are so many problems in implementation.”

Regina police chief willing to adopt policies to address ‘suicide by cop’
August 12, 2021
**Method warning** Geoffrey Morris was killed by a Regina police officer in 2019 during a hostage situation, and a coroner’s inquest found that his death was a suicide by police shooting. Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said after the inquest that “I am aware that there is work [in other police services] that is being done to try and address suicide by cop. The jury gave us recommendations that might help build a framework or a template that gives us some strategies we can try and employ if this situation arises again.” Recommendations included that officers wear body cameras and that Elders be available during crisis situations involving Indigenous people, such as this incident with Morris. Further, a psychologist should go along with negotiation teams, and officers should receive yearly training on how to respond in mental health and crisis situations. Bray said, “Part of an inquest is better understanding the truth of what happened and finding positive ways that we can commit to hopefully preventing something like that or minimizing the chances of something like that happening again, I hope that also helps the family with a bit of closure.”

Opinion: Suicide is not just a problem for officers who defended the Capitol. It’s a crisis for all police.Washington Post
August 11, 2021
Two more officers who defended the US Capitol during the riots on Jan. 6 died by suicide last week, highlighting an issue that is not unique to police who defended the Capitol that day. Police are 54% more likely to die by suicide than those in the general US population – they’re more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. Police have greater exposure to trauma, access to lethal means, and are often not encouraged to acknowledge, report, or seek help for mental health issues. They rarely receive training focusing on how to deal with their own mental health. The author of this opinion piece suggests that, “Undoing this stigma requires those in leadership to transform the culture. No single intervention or training will dramatically reduce suicide among police officers. As part of the Education Development Center’s work to address mental health and suicide among a variety of front-line providers, we have (created) the National Consortium on Preventing Law Enforcement Suicide Toolkit. Three critical recommendations from the tool kit are creating a culture that addresses the impacts of trauma, making it okay to ask for help and ensuring access to skilled providers.”

‘I don’t intend to let my son down twice’: the bereaved father trying to end suicideGuardian
August 11, 2021
Steve Mallen lost his son Edward Mallen to suicide in 2015. Steve became worried about Edward when he stopped playing piano, became withdrawn, lost his appetite and struggled with sleep. Edward saw his family doctor on January 22, 2015, and shared he’d had thoughts of suicide. This triggered an urgent referral to a mental health specialist, but an appointment was never set up. Edward saw a private psychiatrist while waiting for his appointment and the next day, he died by suicide. Steve co-founded the Zero Suicide Alliance in 2017 in an effort to prevent suicides like Edward’s from happening again by advocating for improvements to health care systems. “When Edward died, people would come up and say it was an accident, or like being struck by lightning and they meant well, but what happened was a woeful indictment on our society. Edward should be alive. And I stood in front of his coffin and made him a public promise that I would investigate his death and seek reform. I don’t intend to let him down twice.”
Learn more about the Zero Suicide movement

The Imperfect Storm: College Students and SuicideHarvard Political Review
August 10, 2021
This article explores the issue of suicide in the student population. According to Nance Roy, Chief Clinical Officer of the youth mental health nonprofit Jed Foundation, there are two factors in particular that may contribute to a student’s suicide risk and those are: learning basic life skills such as time management, managing interpersonal relationships, and finances, while attending college and having their social safety net removed by losing touch with old friends. Kyle Carney, co-founder of Cambridge’s Mount Auburn Counseling Center, adds that easy accessibility of drugs and alcohol and engaging in other risk-taking behaviours contribute to student stress.

American Muslims Are 2 Times More Likely To Have Attempted Suicide Than Other GroupsNPR
August 10, 2021
Muslims in the US are two times more likely to have attempted suicide than other religious groups. This higher risk is attributed to two factors, according to researchers: religious discrimination and community stigma, both of which discourage Muslims in the US from seeking mental health services. “If you believe that your mental illnesses will bring shame on you or your family, then you tend to stay silent about it,” said Dr. Farha Abbasi, founder of the Muslim Mental Health Conference. Abbasi says religious discrimination may also be a factor: “Right now, the exposure to toxicity is making us more vulnerable… The impact of growing Islamophobia, the violence that is being directed against Muslims, all that is having a huge impact on mental health.” Culturally appropriate mental health resources and religious leaders can help Muslims who are struggling. Dr. Rania Awaad, director of the Muslim Mental Health & Islamic Psychology Lab at Stanford University said, “A number of imams came forward and said, ‘We as the religious and community leaders of the Muslim community really need to step up to this discussion.’ “

N.L. suicide rates have tripled since 1980s, among highest in Canada, says researcherCBC
August 10, 2021
Overall, the suicide rate in Canada has dropped 24% since the 1980s, but the number of suicides in Newfoundland and Labrador have tripled in that time. The rate went from 5 per 100,000 in the early 1980s to 15 in 2018.
Nathaniel Pollock, a research associate with the Labrador Institute says, “Historically, and as far back as we have data, the suicide rate in Newfoundland and Labrador was typically one of the lower rates in Canada compared to other provinces and territories. Now, compared to other provinces, we rank as one of the highest.” To prevent these deaths, Pollock says, “(We) need to look not just at some of the individual or clinical things we can do related to suicide prevention. We need to sort of understand and think about the impact of social and economic policy, and there are a lot of dimensions that aren’t just behavioural or psychological factors that can impact suicide but there are also some ones from social context that can really impact the true policy we may need to consider when we’re trying to prevent suicide.”

Concern grows in Kenya after alarming rise in suicide casesGuardian
August 10, 2021
Kenya has seen an increase in suicides in 2021 – in April, May, and June, almost 500 people died by suicide, which is more than in the entire year of 2020. “Research has shown that structural determinants of mental ill-health such as extreme poverty, lack of access to empowerment opportunities and discrimination increase the likelihood of individuals (dying by) suicide,” the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNHCR) said. “Unfortunately, suicide prevention measures in Kenya have often failed to address these root causes and instead incorporated fewer effective approaches, including punitive measures.” A KNHCR report says that the fact that suicide is criminalized in Kenya makes addressing root causes difficult.

Finding a way back from suicide The New Yorker
August 9, 2021
**Method warning** Author Donald Antrim tells his story of recovery from suicidality in this long-form essay. Antrim checked himself into a psychiatric hospital and describes his time there, feeling relieved at first to be safe from himself, then falling back into depression and developing physical symptoms and illnesses. Eventually, Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) was suggested to Antrim, who was hesitant. Fellow author and friend-of-a-friend David Foster Wallace called Antrim and said, “I’m calling to tell you that if your doctors recommend ECT then I want you to do it.” Foster Wallace had experienced positive results following ECT himself. Antrim decided to move forward with the therapy, and after about five weeks, he said, “My weight went up and up from the medications, and I could barely get my pants on, but I didn’t care. I was alive. It was mid-August. I did not feel burning in my gut; my legs didn’t tingle or shake; and I no longer woke in terror at three in the morning.”

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