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:
Build it and you can use it to prevent suicide, researcher says – Ottawa Citizen
February 29, 2020
Zachary Kaminsky, suicide prevention researcher at The Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research has been researching the capability of artificial intelligence to determine suicide risk by scanning social media posts. Kaminsky says adolescents often disclose suicide risk factors on social media instead of to their doctors, and this is in part due to the fact that “People don’t realize that they are putting out these signals.” Over the last two years, Kaminsky has been analyzing Twitter data from around the world, scanning not for obvious words like “die” or “suicide,” but instead for more subtle signals of suicidal thoughts such as “burden, loneliness, stress, depression, insomnia, anxiety,” and “hopelessness.” After identifying posts with these words, the AI was able to identify patterns and networks of other associated words, including “love” used in association with swear words and pronouns, indicating the breakdown of a romantic relationship. Kaminsky believes this information can be used to trigger a response from the social network, which can increase the likelihood that people who post about suicidal thoughts will get better. He acknowledges, though, that, “The more we’re trained to help our friends, the more power we have. Research can’t be the magic answer. We still have to interact.”
5 ways you can help prevent LGBTQ youth suicide – Mashable
February 29, 2020
Amy Green, director of research at The Trevor Project, provides suggestions of how we can reduce the stigma, discrimination and rejection that youth in sexual and gender minorities face. Her suggestions include, “Be a trusted adult who accepts and loves LGBTQ youth; Make schools a place where LGBTQ youth are accepted and protected from discrimination; Ensure that LGBTQ youth receive medical care that affirms their identity; Create inclusive resources and services for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness; and Focus on community-led solutions.”
To learn more about how suicide can be prevented in sexual minorities and transgender people, read our toolkits.
Finlay: A three-digit suicide prevention hotline can save lives. Shouldn’t Canada get behind it? – Ottawa Citizen
February 28, 2020
The US is rolling out a three-digit suicide prevention hotline, and in this article, Kathleen Finlay argues that Canada should do the same. Madelyn Gould, renowned Columbia University psychiatrist and expert in suicide prevention, said that, “People can have a cognitive shutdown or blank, as any of us do, when we can’t remember things during times of extreme stress.” Having a three-digit hotline, she said, would “facilitate people’s access to care at times when they are in dire need.” Finlay is a mental health advocate and founder of the 988 Campaign for Canada.
How Netflix’s All the Bright Places Tackled Teen Suicide in the Wake of 13 Reasons Why – Vanity Fair
February 28, 2020
Netflix’s All the Bright Places is a film-adaptation of a novel of the same name which discusses youth depression and suicide, and according to filmmaker Brett Haley, Netflix provided a network of mental health professionals to consult on each stage of the script. “We ran the script by them and talked to them in pre-production about what kind of message we were putting forth. We made sure that we weren’t depicting anything in any kind of dangerous capacities that could be triggering. There was a lot of conversation around what this film was about, what it was saying, and how it was saying it,” said Haley. In 2017, Netflix released another novel-adaptation, this time a series, 13 Reasons Why, in which media guidelines for safe messaging were not followed and suicide behaviours were glamourized. One study found a 29% increase in suicide among Americans ages 10 to 17 following the release of the series; an alarming correlation.
Canadian veterinarians struggling with mental health issues, new study suggests – The Star
February 27, 2020
A new study has found that veterinarians had higher levels of perceived stress, burnout, depression, anxiety, secondary traumatic stress and suicidal thoughts than the general public, with female veterinarians experiencing these higher levels more than their male peers. Over 12 months, 26.2% of veterinarians who were participants in the study reported suicidal thoughts. “These results should serve as a call to action for tools and educational programs directed at supporting veterinarian mental wellness in Canada, with special attention paid to the disparate needs of the genders,” said study authors. Last month, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association launched a campaign called, “I matter,” which, according to Dr. Susan Dorland, president of the association, “is really designed around resiliency and wellness and if you need a hand, you need to ask, you need to get help and build a network that supports you and we are trying to help with that.”
How researchers are using Reddit and Twitter data to forecast suicide rates – Vox
February 24, 2020
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US is using data from social platforms, including Reddit and Twitter, to inform artificial intelligence that may be able to forecast future suicide rates. Suicide statistics are usually delayed by two years, so officials are forming policy and allocating mental health resources based on older numbers. “If we want to do any kind of policy change, intervention, budget allocation, we need to know the real picture of what is going on in the world in terms of people’s mental health experiences,” Munmun de Choudhury, a professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing who is working with the CDC. “When you have data that is dated, and you know that the rates of suicide are increasing but you don’t know by how much, it can severely impact the kinds of interventions organizations like the CDC can do, [such as] maybe improving access to resources [and] allocating resources throughout the country.”
Rail suicides: a joint Nordic approach to reduce numbers – Nordic Labour Journal
January 28, 2020
*Method warning* The Nordic Council Welfare Committee wants to see rail suicides completely eliminated by 2025 in their region. To prevent suicides, the Committee proposes the installation of barriers on all commuter and metro train platforms. Copenhagen has already equipped all metro stations with barriers, while Stockholm has equipped new commuter-train platforms with the barriers and, “Those stations have not seen any deaths at all,” says Claes Keisu, press officer at Region Stockholm’s department for public transport. One issue is that there are many different types of trains being used with different door sizes, making barrier installation challenging. Another proposed suicide prevention measure is to implement training for train drivers, station officers, and security guards; in Stockholm, 4,500 cameras have been installed at train stations and staff “are trained to be able to identify people who display ‘suicidal’ or other unusual behaviour,” said Keisu, adding that, in 2019, 239 people were intervened with.