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

How to Help a Loved One Through Sudden LossNew York Times
January 7, 2022
This article, written by Julie Halpert who lost son Garrett to suicide, talks about how to support someone who has experienced the sudden loss of a loved one. “Many bereaved people experience another secondary loss when friends and family run away after a loss due to their own discomfort,” said Sherry Cormier, a psychologist and certified bereavement trauma specialist. “They think, ‘That could happen to me.’” People can support their friends who have lost someone by taking on tasks like picking up groceries, reaching out on a continuous basis – not just immediately following the death, and connecting them with a community of others who are grieving. There are also suggestions for how to interact with the grieving person, including by being a good listener and being careful not to minimize their grief. 

When a friend dies by suicide: Preventing suicide contagionBoston Children’s Hospital
January 6, 2022
People who have experienced the death of a person they know by suicide may be at increased risk of suicide themselves. This article talks about how to prevent suicide contagion in young people. “After suicide, the person’s closest friends aren’t necessarily the ones at greatest risk,” says Kimberly O’Brien, clinical social worker in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Boston Children’s Hospital. “The kids at greatest risk are the ones who are already emotionally vulnerable and those who believe their classmate solved their problems through suicide.” 

What my sister’s suicide taught me about my own mental healthTODAY
January 5, 2022
Ganel-Lyn Condie’s sister Meggan Killough died by suicide in 2014. In this article, Condie speaks about the experience of losing her sister, “I grew up in a family where mental health and therapy was a way of life. It was not taboo or brushed under any kind of family culture rug. Before Meg’s passing, I had been in and out of therapy. But Meg dying was a wake-up call. Suicide grief is a crazy kind of ‘what if’ grief. I knew I needed to take a fresh look at my own mental health. Grief had become a colossal spotlight into the dark corners and crevices of my mind, childhood and soul.”

Opinion: Muslims face a suicide crisis in America. The taboo of talking about it must end.USA Today
January 2, 2022
This opinion article discusses the stigma of mental illness and suicide in Muslim communities. Authors say, “Suicide, in particular, is a taboo within a taboo not only because of its connection to a mental health vocabulary, but also because it is morally forbidden in Islam.” One study found that American Muslims are twice as likely as any other religious group in the US to report previous suicide attempts. In addition to the stigma of mental health issues and suicide, American Muslims also experience discrimination based on Islamophobia, gender, and sexual orientation. Gay and bisexual Muslims were eight times more likely to report a suicide attempt. Suicide prevention is slowly beginning to happen in the American Muslim community, with a recent initiative, 500 Imams, focused on training Muslim religious leaders in suicide prevention.

What do we know about suicide in military veterans?Psychology Today
December 31, 2021
A new report from the American Department of Veterans Affairs shows that, in the US, the suicide rate for military veterans is double that of non-military members. In the report, factors like prior suicide attempts or thoughts, depression, anxiety, and substance use were all identified as contributing to a veteran’s suicide risk. The report suggests preventing suicide among veterans by filling in research gaps and using risk-screening and intervention.

Conservative MPs question government delay setting up suicide hotline as COVID crisis calls continueNational Post
December 29, 2021
In December 2020, MP Todd Doherty’s motion to establish a 3-digit suicide crisis line to connect to the existing national line, 1-833-456-4566, was approved with unanimous support in the House of Commons. One year later, 3-digit access hasn’t been activated, and the CRTC has said that their public consultation process will continue until mid-March. MP Mike Lake says, “One would have thought at this time of year it would have been introduced. It shouldn’t take this long. A suicide prevention hotline should be a priority. There are a million reasons to expedite this.”

Opinion: Changes to assisted-dying rules put psychiatrists in an impossible positionGlobe and Mail
December 28, 2021
Mark Sinyor, psychiatrist and suicide prevention researcher at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Art Zaretsky, chief of psychiatry at Sunnybrook, discuss recent changes to the medical assistance in dying laws and the role of psychiatrists in this opinion article. Access to medical-assistance in dying has been expanded to people with chronic medical problems even if they have years or decades to live. As a result of these changes, soon it is likely that the expansion will include people with chronic mental illness. Authors say, “If our government endorses death as a means of coping with mental illness, this could have a tragic impact on many areas of mental-health care, including suicide prevention. In a vacuum of scientific evidence, we are in extreme danger of breaching one of the foundational ethical dictums of medicine: ‘First, do no harm.'” They suggest these expansions are being made “based on missing or unacceptably poor-quality data were presented to courts and legislators as scientific facts. This provided false reassurance that no harm would come to Canadians.” Sinyor and Zaretsky argue, “When patients come through our doors, they correctly expect to be speaking to experts. If we tell them that their suffering cannot be relieved, they ought to be confident that such determinations have a basis in evidence and science, especially when the alternative offered is death. An appeal for proper scientific investigation prior to implementation of a proposed medical treatment should not be controversial in the 21st century. Let’s not wait for the courts to point out our folly.”

Suicides rates haven’t increased in N.L. under the pandemic but psychologist remains cautiousCBC
December 19, 2021
There has been a decrease in the number of suicides in Newfoundland and Labrador – according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, there were 49 suicides from January to mid-November 2021, compared to 67 in 2020. Dr. Janine Hubbard, a psychologist, said that often during a collective crisis, suicide rates don’t see much of a change and may even decrease. Hubbard says, “It’s after the crisis has passed that we then see the increase in suicide numbers. That’s why we’re both not surprised about the current state but really worried about what’s going to happen going forward.” In her practice, Hubbard has seen an increase in substance use, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders as well as an increase in suicidal ideation among young people. To help prevent suicide in the community and help someone who is struggling, Hubbard recommends that people reach out to friends and family to connect and see if they need help.

Subscribe to the weekly news roundup