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:

Alberta suicide rates remain high despite “encouraging” 20% dropCBC
Dec. 14, 2016
Recent statistics in Alberta reveal that the number of suicidal deaths is down for the six months of 2016, compared to 2015. There have been 255 suicidal deaths from January to June 2016, a 20% reduction from the same period last year. However, Mara Grunau, Executive Director of the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Calgary, says that is an encouraging sign but it is “hardly worth celebrating”. The numbers are slightly down from last year but are still really high, compared to the rest of Canada.
Richard Ramsay, of LivingWorks, providers of suicide prevention training for over 3 decades, feels the root of the problem is that the province has not had a “sustained suicide prevention strategy since the early 90s.” Both Grunau and Ramsay remain optimistic, however, that the provincial government, who conducted a mental health review recently, will help improve the situation with their commitment to implement several new suicide prevention measures.

U of A professor calls drop in Alberta suicide rates “unexpected” – Metro News
Dec. 16, 2016
Peter Silverstone, professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta, finds the reduction in suicides so far in 2016 to be “unexpected but positive.” He thinks that due to the continued rise in Alberta’s unemployment should be also reflected in an increase in suicides. Yet there have been 255 suicides in Alberta so far in 2016, a reduction of 20%.
Mara Grunau, Executive Director of the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Calgary, is thrilled to see the reduction in suicide deaths but cautions that the numbers of suicides in Alberta–over 500 a year–are still way too high and unacceptable. She also noted how the highest at-risk group for suicide–middle-aged men–are those who still need to be reached the most. This is even more pronounced in a province like Alberta with “hyper-masculine, lone-wolf type industries like farming, ranching, and the oil patch in general.” There is still a great resistance among these men to seek help or appear vulnerable, she says.

Explicit suicide scene leads Quebec school board to ban screeningsCBC 
Dec. 14, 2016
The Val-des-Cerfs School Board in Quebec’s Eastern Townships has cancelled a field trip of 600 students to see Yan England’s new film, 1:54. This comes as a result of public health and local suicide prevention organizations warning of an “explicit suicide scene”.
The film depicts issues such as depression, bullying, and suicide among teens. Tania Boilar, speaking on behalf of a local suicide prevention organization, thinks the film does not depict the issue of suicide in a responsible manner. She does “not condemn the film as a work of art” but thinks it is not an appropriate “educational tool”  for students.

Artificial Intelligence could help prevent subway suicide attempts Motherboard
Dec. 14, 2016
Brian Mishara, Director of the of the Center for Research and Intervention on Suicide and Euthanasia at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), believes captured CCTV images of suicide attempters in subway can help prevent future suicide attempts. Specialized computer software can be programmed to recognize gestures which may indicate an imminent attempt.His study, to be published in BMC Public Health, is the “first step toward such a system”. Mishara and his team analyzed footage of over 60 attempts on the Montreal subway and identified common warning signs and behaviours that may indicate an attempt is about to occur. The software would be trained to identify these movements and behaviours such as “pacing around the yellow line, placing an object on the platform, and appearing slouched and depressed.” The subway driver or control room personnel would then be informed of the potential danger, and appropriate actions could be undertaken.

Death on the tracks: How bad is Toronto’s transit suicide problem?Globe and Mail
Dec. 17, 2016
148 people have attempted suicide by jumping in front of a Toronto Transit Commission train since 2010. Half of them died. Another 72 have died by suicide using the GO transit network (a network linking Toronto to Greater Toronto and to parts of regional Ontario). It has prompted the City of Toronto to decide whether to install safety barriers on subway platforms. MetroLinx, the government agency that oversees GO Transit, wants to restrict access to the rail corridor to reduce suicides. Both systems have some “anti-suicide programs” already. For example, TTC staff have training in gatekeeper suicide prevention. And every station have posters targeted toward distressed people and where they can get assistance. The City of Toronto’s plan to install barriers will cost at least $1 billion. The GO Transit plans are also very expensive. These approaches are “forcing hard decisions about how much the society is prepared to spend to save a life.”

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