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:

Feelings of loneliness deepen for many Manitobans, as the pandemic drags onCTV News
January 23, 2021
Isolation is “one of the major issues” being faced by people in Manitoba, says Stephen Sutherland, program director for Canadian Mental Health Association, Manitoba. The province has also seen a decline in engagement with virtual mental health programming. Rita Chala, executive director of the Mood Disorder Association of Manitoba, says, “What we’re seeing is that the longer that people are not able to engage, the longer that people are not taking care of themselves, it’s making it more difficult.” Mara Grunau, executive director of the Centre for Suicide Prevention notes that the pandemic has opened up conversation about mental health, “The pandemic has helped us in terms of de-stigmatizing mental health. The stigma prevails but we’re talking about it more and it’s more of a commonality than it would have been before.” Grunau stresses that it’s still too early to say if the pandemic will lead to and increase in suicide, however, “As time goes on and hopes starts to diminish, that’s when suicide could become an option.” 

Surge of Student Suicides Pushes Las Vegas Schools to ReopenNew York Times
January 24, 2021
*Method warning* Clark County, Nevada implemented an early-warning system that alerts officials of students’ mental health episodes, and since March when schools closed their doors, more than 3,100 alerts have been sent. 18 students in the county took their lives from March to December 2020. Jesus Jara, the Clark County superintendent said, “When we started to see the uptick in children taking their lives, we knew it wasn’t just the Covid numbers we need to look at anymore. We have to find a way to put our hands on our kids, to see them, to look at them. They’ve got to start seeing some movement, some hope.” Student suicides have not conclusively been linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Gretta Massetti, who studies the effects of violence and trauma on children at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says there was “definitely reason to be concerned because it made conceptual sense.” Brad Hunstable lost his son Hayden, 12, to suicide. Hunstable says his son missed friends and football and became consumed by playing video games. Even more parents who lost their children to suicide are speaking out now after schools decided not to reopen in the fall.

Will the Pandemic Result in More Suicides? – The New York Times
January 21, 2021
Surveys in the US are finding that more people are thinking about suicide during the pandemic than in recent years, yet in some regions, suicide has decreased. Suicide deaths among Black people in Maryland, Connecticut, and Chicago, however, have increased. Sean Joe, director of the Race and Opportunity Lab at Washington University in St. Louis said, “You can’t assume the overall trend describes what’s happening with all Americans.” This article explores the complexities of studying suicidal behaviour, and ways in which suicide can be prevented. Joe says we may not see an impact on suicide rates until later on: “All that complicated grief that’s been occurring, that’s what will hit America in the next year to 24 months. And that’s what we have to watch out for. That we don’t have a behavioral health crisis following this Covid crisis and nobody’s preparing for it.”

Opinion: Like Tommy Raskin, I concealed my pain. Suicide prevention requires professional help.USA Today
January 21, 2021
*Method warning* Thomas Raskin, 25, died by suicide on December 31, 2020. Steven Petrow, the author of this article and advocate for mental illness awareness, comments that “not even (being enveloped in love) was not enough to prevent his death.” Petrow discusses the limits of “being there,” for someone, noting that often, in the case of severe mental illness, professional help is required, “If you suffer from depression, I can tell you not to be ashamed of your illness and to reach out when you need help. I can advise friends and family members to know the warning signs of suicide. But here’s what I learned: That moment when I wanted to take my own life was short-lived, and had the scales tipped ever so slightly there would have been no one able to stop me. It took a psychiatrist to help me gain mastery of my illness, and to convince me that I would not always be on that precipice.”

Suicide Prevention in the Context of COVID-19Psychiatry Advisor
January 20, 2021
Various risk factors are linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, including social isolation, unemployment, and financial difficulty. Respondents to surveys in North America are reporting worsening mental health. Christine Moutier, MD, psychiatrist and chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, says that despite this, an increase in suicides is not inevitable. “It is encouraging that a recent… poll of American adults found that 26% of people say they have accessed mental health treatment or support using technology like teletherapy,” says Moutier. “There are a broad range of interventions and prevention measures that research has shown to have a risk-reducing impact on the population. These include policy initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels, which could accomplish wide-sweeping implemented changes that would effectively reduce suicide risk.”

Marijuana abuse by youth with mood disorders linked to suicide attempts, self-harm and death, study findsCNN
January 20, 2021
A new study has found that young people with mood disorders who use cannabis heavily have an increased risk of self-harm, suicide attempts, and death (overdose, suicide, and homicide). “Research suggests that marijuana exposure impacts the brain’s ability to process emotion. Could this interact in a deleterious way with the developing brain?” said Dr. Lucien Gonzalez, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on substance use and prevention. “It doesn’t prove that using cannabis causes depression or self-harm, but also doesn’t definitively refute it. Complicated associations appear to be found, and we just don’t fully understand them yet.”

Fewer U.S. Cancer Patients Are Dying From Suicide, Study FindsUS News
January 19, 2021
Cancer patients in the US are less likely to take their own lives than in the past, according to a new study by the American Cancer Society.  Suicides among cancer patients dropped almost 3% per year between 1999 and 2018. According to Brittany LeMonda, senior neuropsychologist, the decrease “suggests that advances in palliative care, pain medication and psychological support may be effective in reducing suicidal ideation and behaviors.”

Rate of Suicide 3 Times Higher for Autistic PeopleHealthline
January 19, 2021
A recent study has found that people with autism have a higher risk of suicide and suicide attempts than those in the general population. One risk factor for females is that they are often diagnosed and treated for autism much later than males. Navigating social milestones can also be a factor for people in this group, says Dr. Sarah Mohiuddin, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, “Reaching social milestones can be more challenging in the ASD population. I see many patients who describe a lot of distress in watching their peers and siblings have a romantic partner or get their first job while this can be very difficult for them.”

Trauma at the station
January 18, 2021
Current and former BIPOC employees of the Calgary Fire Department are speaking out about being “deeply wounded by degrading experiences” that took place while working at CFD. They say they’ve been trying to raise these issues with the chief. A letter detailing their experiences and their efforts to be heard was sent to Chief Steve Dongworth, as well to CBC News. “We have been ostracized, humiliated, degraded, slandered, undermined, ignored, verbally and physically assaulted, sexually harassed, and sexually assaulted,” reads the letter. The first Black firefighter to be hired in Calgary, Chris Coy, retired captain, said, “People have killed themselves because of this culture, and I’ve been trying to tell people that for five years.” One firefighter who took his life is Capt. Barry Dawson, who died in November 2017 at age 47. He was trying to connect to his First Nations identity, but had experienced “unbearable systemic racism” as a CFD employee.

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