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:

Living at an elevated riskRocky Mountain Outlook
August 15, 2019
The University of Utah released a study in 2011 that examined the correlation between altitude and suicide rates, suggesting that areas located at higher altitudes also have higher suicide rates, due to reduced levels of oxygen. These areas also have high rates of gun ownership, as well as social isolation, both of which are well known risk factors for suicide. Perry Renshaw, who worked on the study and is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah, said, “Our findings add to the literature of a number of risk factors like gun ownership, living in a remote area, or bad economic times.” In Alberta, high altitude does not necessarily mean that there is a higher suicide rate. Robert Olson, librarian with the Centre for Suicide Prevention, cautioned not to put too much emphasis on the correlation between altitude and suicide rate it. “I’m not discounting it, but I think it needs to be researched more thoroughly,” said Olson, adding there are many other risk factors that can lead to suicide.  

University of Alberta PhD student develops AI to identify depressionGlobe and Mail
August 18, 2019
Mashrura Tansim, a student at the University of Alberta is developing a machine-learning model that can recognize when a person’s voice changes to a tone that may indicate that they are depressed. The model would work through an app installed on a person’s smartphone, and would monitor their conversations and alert emergency contacts or mental health professionals when the app detects a change in tone that indicates depression. Tansim noted that this app is only of use if help is available to the person who is using it: “We can help people to learn to listen better or to know how people around them are feeling, but it is up to us to move forward, to take a step and to offer support,” she said. “If we know [someone needs help] and we do nothing, it is of no use.”  Brett Thombs, a professor in the department of psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal said, “This kind of thing is really exciting because … right now, we don’t have good ways to identify people who might benefit from help.” At the same time, he said: “People need to be very careful that they could do a lot of harm if they roll this out … before they actually know that it does provide benefit.”

Metrolinx pushing suicide prevention plan after 14 deaths this yearCBC
August 16, 2019
Metrolinx, the regional transit system of the greater Toronto area, has many suicide prevention initiatives underway. These include signs with helpline numbers at train stations, suicide intervention training for staff members that includes how to recognize a person who may be thinking of suicide on a train platform, as well as mandatory counselling for Metrolinx drivers who have experienced fatalities. Calgary Transit has also trained staff in suicide prevention, in workshops delivered by Centre for Suicide Prevention and developed by LivingWorks Education. 

The Biggest Police Department In The US Has A Suicide Crisis. Another Department Thinks They Have An Answer. Buzzfeed
August 16, 2019
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has seen its suicide rate double in the past year, and is struggling with how to prevent these suicides. NYPD is hoping to support members who are struggling with an app with mental health information, an independent medical facility where appointments within 24 hours are available, and a boost to mental health insurance. The Chicago Police Department, the second largest in the United States after the NYPD, has launched their own initiatives, including a video of testimonials of members of the department, including senior officials, who have reached out for help in an effort to encourage other members to do the same. Experts say this is an effective way of empowering others to seek help. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has 350 staff members trained as peer support staff, and the number one way members seek help is through peer support. At the LAPD, staff psychologists who debrief with officers after traumatic incidents or hold private counselling sessions are different than those who conduct their fitness-for-duty exams, meaning that officers know their sessions will not impact their fitness-for-duty results.
Related: NYPD suicides push officials to work to overcome stigma of asking for helpCNN

B.C. panel releases recommendations to bolster youth mental health, suicide-prevention servicesGlobe and Mail
August 15, 2019
A panel of experts, upon appointment by BC’s chief coroner and others, have reviewed 111 child and youth suicides between 2013 and June 30, 2018. They’ve released recommendations that include: distributing provincial best practice guidelines on youth mental health and expanding mental health services, including psychiatric services, to non-urban areas. “Suicide is the leading cause of injury-related death among children and youth in B.C.,” said Panel chair Michael Egilson. “Predicting suicide is difficult, which is why it is so important to ensure that all youth have access to the tools and resources to support their mental well-being, as well as ensuring appropriate services are available for youth who are struggling.”

Will these Calgary kids win big for Canada in Silicon Valley?CBC Kids News
August 15, 2019
A group of 11-year-old students, Tito Akinlosotu, Claire Palmer, Sarah Jacobson and Emma Cutler, who call themselves Team Robot Unicorns, were the only Canadian group to have been invited to present their project at the Technovation World Pitch in California, and last week, they made their pitch in hopes of winning the grand prize. Their project is an app called Cloud9, and its goal is to help young people with social anxiety. It helps young people work through their anxieties by writing down their feelings, and there’s a quiz component that offers advice to address social anxiety. “You can take the quiz and sometimes if your anxiety is really high, it will suggest that you see a doctor or tell your parents about it. But if it’s really low, it will give you small goals, like make a new friend in class or say hi to someone new,” Akinlosotu said. The app also features a resource hub, where young people can go to find help. 

New mental health resource helps 1st year students copeCBC
August 14, 2019
A new handbook has been developed based on research to help first year post-secondary students cope with the stresses of post-secondary life and transitioning into it. “I’m 70 per cent prepared mentally,” says Anureet Kaur, 17, who is moving from Winnipeg to Victoria to attend post-secondary. Kaur also expressed that she was nervous about the upcoming academic workload and taking on new responsibilities.”I end up taking a lot on my plate and then I panic and get overwhelmed.” Sam Fiorella thinks the handbook is a good resource, but believes more needs to be done to help young people who are struggling. Fiorella lost his son Lucas to suicide when Lucas was attending university. “This should be a mobile app that could actually engage with them… like with a reminder, ‘Hey, it’s a good time to check in before exams,'” said Fiorella.

Suicide watch: What we know about the Epstein case and how it works in CanadaGlobal
August 13, 2019
The recent death of Jeffrey Epstein, who died in his prison cell in the US, has raised questions about suicide in prison, including suicide watch (which Epstein was reportedly not under at the time of his death). In Canada’s federal prisons, suicide watch takes place over 72 hours and can be extended. There are three different levels: high, modified and mental health monitoring. 

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