Hello Friends,

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:

More religious leaders challenge silence, isolation surrounding suicideNPR
February 11, 2018
Religious leaders have been ill-prepared and reluctant to speak about suicide with their congregants, but now some clergy members are working to change that by talking openly about suicide. Looking past suicide as a “sin” in many faiths is also contributing to a more open conversation in religious environments. Imam Sohail Chaudhry of the Islamic Center of East Lansing, Michigan, says “In the past, we would jump to thinking of jinn, or spirit possession, as the only thing happening to a person in cases where they lost their ability to rationalize and make decisions. Now we understand that mental illness may be incapacitating that person.”

Suicide prevention: mental health workers, politicians demand Canada-wide action planCBC
February 9, 2018
NDP MP Charlie Angus is calling for a national action plan on suicide prevention to be adopted by the federal government, one that has a significant focus on First Nations people. Angus believes that the lack of Indigenous-based mental health services is a Canada-wide issue and is preventing people from finding the help they need. Marcia Manitowabi, a youth social worker in Sudbury, Ontario’s Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre said “I find there’s still a lot of that racial stigma in this area [Sudbury] where we’re not really valued. We do have cultural programs in the schools, but we need to have more.”

Puerto Rico’s suicide rate rises 29% following Hurricane MariaBlavity
February 9, 2018
In 2017, the suicide rate in Puerto Rico has increased by 29% since 2016, with a total of 253 deaths. Experts believe this increase may be due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, as many residents are still living in the poor conditions left behind by the storm. “A lot of patients are presenting severe mental health issues since the storm, and the number of patients in our clinic has increased dramatically,” said Dr. Kenira Thompson, who runs a mental health clinic in Ponce. “Not one person that has lived through the storm can’t say they weren’t touched by what happened.” Learn more about the connection between natural disasters and suicide in our article on the subject. 

US suicides ‘spiked after Robin Williams death’BBC
February 7, 2018
In the five months following the suicide death of actor Robin Williams, there was a 10% increase in suicides (an additional 1,841) in the US. There is no way to know for sure if his death was linked to the increase, but during the extensive media reportage of his suicide, there was “substantial evidence” that many media outlets did not adhere to the best practice guidelines for suicide reporting, put in place with the goal of reducing the risk of copycat suicides.

Drugs, alcohol and suicides contribute to alarming drop in US life expectancyUSA Today
February 7, 2018
A report released last week has shown that life expectancy in the US has dropped for the second year in a row due to drug, alcohol, and suicide-related deaths. “We are seeing an alarming increase in deaths from substance abuse and despair,” said Steven Woolf at Virginia Commonwealth University, a co-author of the latest report.

Could suicide risk be ID’d through a blood test? New Ottawa research chair offers hopeOttawa Citizen
February 6, 2018
Dr. Zachary Kaminsky led research showing that it may be possible to identify suicide risk through the use of a simple blood test. “We have a chance with biomarkers to do good in the very near future, I think. That’s my life’s goal — to see some of the biomarkers identified in my lab being used to save people,” said Kaminsky.

Sask. Worker’s Comp. decision attributing suicide to workplace could lead to more claims: prof CBC
February 6, 2018
The Saskatchewan Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB) has deemed the suicide death of a grader operator a workplace-related suicide, as there was strong indication that his mental health issues were attributable to his working conditions. The WCB also acknowledges that the man had pre-existing mental health issues and that his current job aggravated his condition. “It opens the doors and it places a lot of responsibility on the employers for creating a healthy space at work in terms of mental health,” said Scott Walsworth, an associate professor of human resources at the University of Saskatchewan.
Related – Sask. rural municipality ordered to pay compensation for suicide of employeeCBC

A driver’s suicide reveals the dark side of the gig economyNew York Times
February 6, 2018
Uber and its competitors have disrupted the livery industry, and according to this article, are causing economic strain on conventional livery drivers in major cities. Some are experiencing overwhelming amounts of debt, causing strain to their mental health.
Related – Driver’s suicide highlights ‘race to the bottom’ in cab industry, union director says NPR

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