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:

Death at Alberta legislature reignites conversation about provincial suicide rateEdmonton Star
December 3, 2019
Following the suicide death last Monday on the steps of the Alberta Legislature, more conversation is being had around the issue of suicide in Alberta. Ron Kneebone of the University of Calgary School of Public Policy has found that for every 1% increase in the unemployment rate, there is a 2.8% increase in suicides. Mara Grunau, executive director at the Centre for Suicide Prevention, said that “way too many people” die by suicide in Alberta, and in order to prevent these deaths, it’s important for people to be proactive in recognizing the warning signs in a person and reaching out to ask if they’re struggling. “Hope abounds, help is available,” she said. “Have your eyes on your people. Because once a person is down that road of significant suicidal thoughts and feelings, telling them to reach out for help — you might as well tell them to scale Mount Everest. It’s just not easy, and often it’s beyond their ability at that point.”
Related – Legislature adjourns after apparent suicide on front stepsEdmonton Journal

CBC News Alberta CBC Edmonton
December 8, 2019
(Interview at 6:00) Following the tragic death at the Alberta Legislature last Monday, Mara Grunau, executive director for the Centre for Suicide Prevention talks about how we can recognize the warning signs of suicide those around us. “The most important thing to do when you’re worried about somebody is to listen… try to be quiet and actively listen to what they have to say. What they’re going through is a big deal for them. You may not see it that way – don’t judge, try to just listen (after mentioning the specific change you noticed). If you’re worried about suicide, ask them directly, ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’. It’s important to be direct but gentle, because if you say the word suicide, they don’t have to. All they have to do is say ‘yes,’ and it’s a huge burden that they can lift off and give to you… then call the crisis line (together).”

Devon Freeman’s family calls for inquest into Indigenous teen’s suicideCity News
December 8, 2019
The family of Devon Freeman, who was 16 when he took his own life just outside his group home, is calling for an inquiry into his death. Pamela Freeman, Devon’s grandmother and the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation filed an official complaint to the regional supervising coroner in Hamilton, Ontario, where his death took place. The complaint letter reads: “It is important for his full story to be investigated and told to the public, in its entirety and in detail, through the vehicle of an inquest…The public has an interest in being made aware of the many systemic gaps and problems in a child welfare system that ultimately failed Devon, contributed to his death, and puts other children in similar circumstances at risk — especially if those children share Devon’s Indigenous heritage.”

The sad saga of men and suicideToronto Sun
December 8, 2019
Suicide is the leading cause of death for men 40-60 in Canada, and men’s mental health issues continue to be stigmatized. The Canadian Centre for Men and Families (CCMF) has launched an awareness campaign to bring attention to this issue, lookbehindthemask.com.  “Appearances can be deceiving and men often suffer in silence,” says Justin Trottier, of CCMF. “This campaign is a call to action to each of us to look at the hidden signs that the men we love are suffering and encourage men to ask for help.” Warning signs for men who may be thinking about suicide include: withdrawing from friends and family, increased alcohol use, and expressing feelings of hopelessness.
Find out more about men and suicide with out toolkit on the subject.

Finding her way: Five years after gender-reassignment surgery Tamara Loyer helps other trans womenVancouver Sun
December 6, 2019
After a long struggle with gender dysphoria, drug addiction, sex work, and homelessness, Tamara Loyer decided to undergo gender-confirming surgery. “After surgery, I thought I don’t want to have to think about (gender) the way I did before. I can be part of the world. I can go and do things now without being self-conscious,” said Loyer, 57. “I walk around here and I don’t have to be afraid that what’s in my head and what people see aren’t the same.” Since her surgery, Loyer has opened up a drop-in program in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver for other trans women who are struggling. She wants to be able to support women who decide to go through the lengthy process of applying for gender-confirming surgery, support she says she lacked.

Auditor calls for improvement in northern Saskatchewan suicide preventionGlobal
December 5, 2019
The suicide rate in northwest Saskatchewan is consistently higher than the rest of the province, and Judy Ferguson, Saskatchewan’s Auditor, has released a report recommending eight areas in which health care providers in the region can improve patient care to reduce suicide.  Ferguson says health care providers don’t receive “sufficient training on caring for suicidal patients,” and that of 3 of the 23 files she examined, ER staff didn’t provide high risk patients with a psychiatric consultation before being discharged, and they were not referred to mental health outpatient services for follow-up appointments. Some recommendations include: offering ongoing staff training for assessing and managing suicide risk, conducting psychiatric evaluations for ER patients with high suicide risk, and consistently following up with patients at risk of suicide after ER discharge.

‘We have hope’: Ottawa pledges to support First Nations suicide prevention strategiesCBC
December 4, 2019
The federal government has agreed to financially support a suicide prevention strategy that was released by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) in Saskatchewan last year. This agreement comes out of a meeting that included Chief Ronald Mitsuing of Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in northern Saskatchewan, a community that has experienced several suicides in the past year.
Related – As Sask. First Nation faces suicide crisis, national focus needed on Indigenous youth: AFNRegina Leader-Post
Canadians, I ask you to care about Indigenous suicideToronto Star
When I tried to kill myself, I received help. Why don’t Indigenous people?Macleans

Concussions and contact sports: What these parents learned from their son’s deathUSA Today
December 4, 2019
*Method warning* Matthew Benedict played football throughout his childhood and adolescence, and suffered several concussions as a result. After one particularly bad hit, his family noticed that Benedict had changed. He was more tense, and more reclusive. Since then, Benedict struggled with his mental health and six years later, he died by suicide at age 27. More and more research is showing a link between concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease, the symptoms of which include impulsive behaviour, depression, and suicidal thoughts and behaviours. 

It’s not a hotline, it’s a ‘warmline’: It gives mental health help before a crisis heats upUSA Today
December 4, 2019
A “hotline” is a phone number that people can call when they’re at the point of suicidal crisis – when they’ve already experienced deep, psychological pain, and cannot see another way out of their pain besides death. Alternatively, a “warmline” provides early intervention before this state of crisis in the form of emotional support. “Many people are housed, have jobs and function in society, but they’re struggling,” said California state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco. “They don’t necessarily need full intervention – they just need support. In the peer-to-peer situation, they can take from someone’s firsthand experience and learn how to navigate these problems.” California is one of around 30 states that have implemented some form of “warmline.”

Yale Review: How Brain Alterations Contribute to Suicidal Thoughts and BehaviorsYale School of Medicine
December 2, 2019
A new review of brain scanning studies has found that important advancements have been made in understanding how brain circuitry contributes to suicide risk, but there is still much more research to be done in this area. Among the findings were that, when areas of the brain that regulate emotion and impulse are impaired, the risk of suicide is greater. The review emphasized that more research needs to be done to examine sex and gender differences in suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

National focus needed on suicide crisis among Indigenous youth: AFNCTV
December 3, 2019
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde called upon the federal government to take action in preventing suicide among Indigenous children. “We know that too many of our young ones are taking their lives. And so we say to those young people that you’re special, you are gifted and you’re loved. Never forget that,” Bellegarde said. “We do call on this government to finally work with (our) leadership and families and people to finally implement a youth-suicide-prevention strategy. That is needed – one that supports all of our young people.”
Related – ‘We have hope’: Ottawa pledges to support First Nations suicide prevention strategiesCBC
When I tried to kill myself, I received help. Why don’t Indigenous people?Macleans

Suicide victim outside legislature was military veteran with depression, family says – CBC
December 3, 2019
Kenneth Chan, 62, died by suicide outside the Alberta Legislature last Monday, December 2. Chan was a retired military veteran. Chan’s stepson, Harald Linder, said that Chan, “probably had a lot of pain that he just kept inside.” Linder also said, “Try and love yourself and try and love the ones around you.”

The Crisis in Youth SuicideNew York Times
December 2, 2019
In the US, there has been a 400% increase in suicide attempts among young people and a 56% increase in suicide between 2007 and 2017 for those aged 10-24. Experts like John P. Ackerman, clinical psychologist and coordinator of suicide prevention at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, are suggesting more investment be given to identifying children who are most at risk for suicide, and teaching them coping skills and what to do when they’re in crisis. He also emphasizes that talking about suicide with young people is very important: In Ohio, he said, “about 40,000 students have been screened for depression and suicide risk, and hundreds of kids have been linked to services. It’s not putting ideas in their heads to ask directly whether they’ve had thoughts of suicide or dying. That doesn’t increase their risk. Rather, it’s relieving. You actually reduce the risk if you help kids talk through these difficult feelings.”

Students call for mental health support after friend diesCBC
November 29, 2019
Jeff Courage, 21, died by suicide in November. He was a third year social sciences student at Western University, and now, his friends are gathering together to raise funds for the Canadian Mental Health Association and to raise awareness for the mental health struggles of students. 

Subscribe to this weekly mailing list