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:

Many assumed suicides would spike in 2020. So far, the data tells a different storyCBC
February 8, 2021
Preliminary data from medical examiner’s and coroner’s in some provinces have found that suicide rates have not increased during the pandemic. There has been an increase in call volumes to some distress centres in the country however, this could be positive, notes Robert Olson, research librarian at the Centre for Suicide Prevention because, “That suggests to us that people are reaching out. And that helps offset suicide deaths.” Olson says one other factor that may contribute to the fact that suicide rates have not yet increased is that governments in Canada have provided relatively strong financial and social supports. Tyler Black, a psychiatrist and suicidologist with the University of British Columbia, says, “There’s not a straight line between distress and suicide.” He mentions the “pull-together effect,” which may be another factor when considering the steady or, in some cases, decreased, suicide rates. “The pull-together is counter-intuitive. When we’re distressed and we’re all trying to do something together for society for the benefit for others, it actually does significantly decrease suicide rates.”

Men’s mental health during pandemicCBC News Network
January 30, 2021
75% of suicide deaths are male; overall, men as a group are socialized to be stoic and strong, and not to ask for support. “We put high expectations on them to be tough and the outcomes, unfortunately, can speak for themselves. Meanwhile, we’ve created social service and health systems that traditionally are built around the needs of women and children,” said Mara Grunau, Executive Director, Centre for Suicide Prevention. “If a woman asks for help, she’s not perceived as weak. Women typically, in their social interactions… will unload and that’s all considered well within the normal way for women to act. Men have been socialized to not do that, to not invest that kind of emotional exposure in each other or in themselves. We’ve created a situation where men are reluctant to do it because it makes them feel weak, or they fear they will look weak.” Learn more about how men’s suicide can be prevented.

How to Help When Adolescents Have Suicidal Thoughts New York Times
February 6, 2021
It’s important to prioritize suicide prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, including suicide prevention among young people. “Now more than any other time is a time for parents, for any adults who work with adolescents and youth, to be paying attention to the well-being of all adolescents,” Dr. Moutier said. “It’s really a time to be checking in.” Dr. Rebecca Leeb, a health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends that parents consider the different ways a young person may respond to stress, and encourage their teens to get out of the house using proper safety measures, so they can spend time with their friends outside, emphasizing that social interaction is important for them. Moutier suggests that parents look after their own mental health, too, and even before jumping in to check on their children. She also advises asking kids the “deeper, harder questions,” because, “our children will feel loved and cared for if we’re practicing that kind of dialogue.”Laura Anthony, a child psychologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado adds to that, noting that it’s also important to not try to solve the child’s problems. “What I need to do is just listen,” she reminds herself.

‘Anxiety and depression are increasing’: Alberta doctor sees spike in mental health visitsGlobal News
February 6, 2021
Dr. Mukarram A. Zaidi, a family physician in Calgary, says that more of his patients have been coming to him with mental health challenges than before the pandemic began. “A lot of people are working from their basement. Many of patients live in apartments and can’t work out. Not socializing with one another is a huge deal. Not being allowed to have family visit you… it’s skyrocketed depression in younger patients that I see,” said Zaidi. Between January and May 2020, the Calgary Distress Centre had a 21% increaes in suicide-related calls. However, preliminary provincial suicide data for Alberta is trending downward, compared to 2018 and 2019: In 2020 there were an estimated 468 suicide deaths, while in 2019 there were 601, and in 2018, 630. *Please note: these numbers are preliminary and subject to change as death investigations are completed.

Expert warns about growing suicidal thoughts rate among Quebec seniorsCTV News
February 4, 2021
Psychiatrist and preventive medicine expert at Montreal Public Health Dr. Robert Perreault says that thoughts of suicide among those aged 65 and over are increasing, and is asking people to check in on their elderly relatives, and intensify contact with them to break their isolation, which can be a source of distress. Older adults may exhibit warning signs that are less recognizable when they’re struggling, including strange pains, difficulty sleeping, and more confusion or irritability. “We don’t necessarily think of a depressive state and therefore we don’t always think of treating it, and that’s where it can progress,” he said. “Relatives must therefore be vigilant,” said Perreault. 

Louisiana deputy who died by suicide shared videos on racism in policingYahoo! News
February 4, 2021
Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Clyde Kerr III, 43, died by suicide January 31. In recent days, Kerr had posted a series of videos on his social media condemning racism in policing. He spoke about the police killings of Black people, including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. In one video he says, “I’ve had enough of all of this nonsense, serving a system that does not give a damn about me or people like me. You have no idea how hard it is to put a uniform on in this day and age with everything that’s going on.”

Ottawa beefing up suicide prevention services, but 3 digit hotline could be more than year awayCBC
February 4, 2021
In July, the Public Health Agency of Canada committed $21 million over 5 years to set up a 3-digit suicide crisis line number throughout Canada. The Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, Crisis Services Canada, and the Canadian Mental Health Association are working together to build the service, which will likely be available in 2022 or 2023. “I don’t think 10 years ago that we would have had the same conversation about a 3-digit number. We’ve come in terms of decreased stigma around mental health and people’s willingness to talk about it,” said Dr. Alison Crawford, Chief Medical Officer for the Canada Suicide Prevention Service. “We all want to make sure that people in our lives have easy access to services should they need them.” Currently, the pan-Canadian crisis line, Canada Suicide Prevention Service, is available at 1-833-456-4566.

Make Space, Listen, Offer Hope: How To Help A Child At Risk Of Suicide NPR
February 2, 2021
As young people’s mental health may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, now is a good time to check in with them, and ask about how they’re doing. This article offers advice for parents and family members who have a young person in their lives who is struggling. The first piece of advice: get support for yourself. Talk to others about how you’re feeling and what you’re dealing with, and that may mean going to a mental health professional. Next, when a young person says they’re in crisis, react calmly and be accepting of what they’re telling you. Megan Hilton, a senior at Ithaca College who has experienced suicide attempts and has struggled with depression and anxiety says, “When I’ve come to my parents, their reactions have been way over the top. And I’ve felt like I’m responsible for their emotions now. It just adds a lot more pressure to things.” Helping the young person problem solve and helping them find reasons to hope are other suggestions, though Hilton cautions that, “A lot of times, people try to comfort or fix things the way that they would want it… and it might not be someone (else’s) thing.” She advises asking the young person what they need and supporting them in getting that help. It can also be helpful to teach young people the words to share their feelings and to model sharing your own. Seeking professional help may be necessary, and removing any lethal means from the home, or restricting access to them, is always good practice in suicide prevention. Finally, this article recommends learning the early warning signs of a crisis, including any sudden changes in behaviour or mood.

Child Psychiatrists Warn That The Pandemic May Be Driving Up Kids’ Suicide Risk – NPR
February 2, 2021
19 students have died by suicide in Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada since schools were shutdown last March. “There’s a sense of urgency,” says Jesus Jara, the superintendent of the Clark County School District. “You know, we have a problem.” Suicide is complex, and there is not any one reason a person may take their life, however, officials in Clark County are worried that the school shutdown is one factor that may be contributing to the increase in suicides. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more young people presenting to hospital emergency departments in the US for mental health needs. “Across the country, we’re hearing that there are increased numbers of serious suicidal attempts and suicidal deaths,” says Dr. Susan Duffy, a professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Brown University.

Destigmatizing suicide could help those in need: mental health advocate Global News
February 2, 2021
Former NHL goaltender Corey Hirsch is an advocate for mental health, and is asking people to look out for loved ones during the pandemic. And, if they’re really worried about a loved one to ask them if they’re having thoughts of suicide. Hirsch says, “We’ve come to be a society that’s scared to ask someone if they’re having suicidal thoughts — that we might be the ones to push them over the edge. If they are thinking that way… we’ve got a serious problem on our hands. But when we push those thoughts that people have even further down and bury them even further under the carpet, we make people feel even more ashamed for having those thoughts.”

Early report indicates suicides have not increased due to pandemicRadio Canada International
February 1, 2021
The Association of Suicide Prevention in Quebec (AQPS) released a report last week finding that, according to preliminary coroner’s reports, there has not been an increase in suicides in Quebec during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, 75% of the death investigations are ongoing, so numbers are not yet final. “We are watching the situation closely and remain mobilized to support all of our partners, including AQPS,” said Pascale Descary, Quebec’s chief coroner. Jérôme Gaudreault, executive director of AQPS said, “The fact that the suicide rate continues to slightly decline is in itself good news, but the fact remains that on average, three people per day die by suicide, that is too many.”

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