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Cancer diagnosis raises suicide risk by 26 percent: researchThe Hill
January 20, 2023
A new study has found that people in the US who were diagnosed with cancer between 2000 and 2016 had a 26% higher suicide rate compared to the general population. Timely symptom management and targeted psychosocial interventions for suicide prevention in people diagnosed with cancer were recommended by authors to decrease risk. It was also found that risk decreased throughout the years, as psychosocial and palliative care improved and advances in cancer symptom management were made – in 2000 people with a cancer diagnosis had a 67% higher risk of suicide whereas in 2016, that percentage lowered to 16. “The overall decreasing trend in suicide risk suggests a positive role of the coinciding promotion of psychosocial and palliative care and advances in symptom control and pain management,” said lead author Xin Hu.  “But more needs to be done. Examining the associations of clinical factors such as cancer treatments as well as policy factors with suicide risk and evaluating psychosocial interventions are important areas for future research.”

Dad of B.C. man who died after leaving psychiatric hospital asks why care team didn’t involve family
January 19, 2023
Aaron Sanio, 30, died by suicide in June 2021, just days after a 5-day involuntary hospital stay. “He was fully aware of how ill he was, and he shared that with me. He used to say, ‘Dad, I would rather you know everything,'” said Sanio’s father Michael Sanio. “Aaron did not want to die, I can tell you that.” Sanio’s friends and family are now speaking out against the Vancouver Coastal Health system for what they see as a failure to follow their family involvement policy. The policy says that all relevant information offered by family members is to be considered and that when it’s appropriate, family should be included in the person’s recovery plan. Several times during that time Michael called to alert the hospital about his son’s history with mental illness and alcohol use,  “I said … I want to talk to a professional so I can share what we know because I think it’s material, and frankly, we think that he needs to stay there for a much longer period of time.” No one on Sanio’s care team called back, and  Sanio’s family were not told when he was released from hospital, despite the policy. “Frankly, if the policy were acted on, I could have benefited from knowing from the professionals what I could do to be helpful, and I am sure that had they known what we knew, they would never have released him,” Michael said.

A complicated grief: Living in the aftermath of a family member’s death by MAID
Globe and Mail
January 18, 2023
This article explores grief following a medically assisted death, and the intersection of suicide and MAID in some cases. Christopher Lyon was told two days before his father was going to die using MAID. Previous to this, when his father was first being assessed for his eligibility for MAID, Lyon and his family provided information for assessors, such as physical health history, mental health struggles, and alcohol use. They noted that he experienced episodes of depression, especially during negative events, and had recently, since being hospitalized from a fall and moved into an assisted-living apartment, been openly talking about suicide. They also expressed that they thought that with time and proper social support and mental health care, his mental health would improve. Lyon isn’t sure who read the information provided, and said of the system, “You, family member, have 90 days to convince a doctor, whose name you don’t know and cannot directly contact, to save your father’s life,” and felt “if we want to save our loved one’s life, we are actually in competition with the assessors and providers.”

Who can die? Canada wrestles with euthanasia for the mentally illBBC
January 14, 2023
This article discusses the problematic nature of broadening access of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) to those whose sole medical condition is mental illness, which Canada was considering allowing beginning in March 2023; a timeline which has now been extended with the acknowledgment that more consideration is needed. “Making death too ready a solution disadvantages the most vulnerable people, and actually lets society off the hook,” says Dr. Madeline Li, a psychiatrist at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital. “I don’t think death should be society’s solution for its own failures.”

‘Our next pandemic’: Calgary’s housing fragility takes a heavy toll on mental health
Unstable housing can significantly impact mental health. Elaine, 67, was terminated from her job after taking extended medical leave due to COVID-19. Then, the rental company that manages the apartment she had been renting for over 10 years increased her rent by 25%. Elaine said that, the rent increase, sudden unemployment, and worrying about when her unemployment insurance would begin, were the three factors that led to her considering suicide for the first time. “That was the final straw that just tipped the scale for me. I just went, ‘I can’t do this anymore.'” Elaine told a friend about her thoughts of suicide, and that friend called Calgary police for a wellness check. The police gave her a food hamper and connected her with Distress Centre’s Mobile Response Team. Her crisis was de-escalated and she was connected to a counsellor. She is still unemployed and worried about how to make rent. “I’ve been working since I was 15 years old. I never thought I would have to fight for survival like this,” she said. “What’s going to happen to me? I will probably be out on the street.”

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