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:

Teen suicide prevention during COVID-19: How parents and kids can have honest and safe conversationsConversation
January 31, 2021
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents and children and teens are experiencing challenges during the pandemic, especially when it comes to socialization with peers. Authors of this article say, “With the COVID-19 crisis and more time spent online, the risks of excessive screen time, loneliness and cyberbullying could have increased, with associated adverse social and mental health effects.” Parents can be alert to the warning signs of suicide – one recent US study found that 50% of parents were not aware that their adolescent was considering suicide. Parents can engage their teens in conversation to check in on them and to ask about suicide if they’re concerned. It’s important to seek help early for teens who may be struggling.

Opinion: Alarming numbers around men’s mental health indicate need for national response CBC
January 28, 2021
Rob Whitley, an associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University and a research scientist at the Douglas Research Centre wrote this opinion piece calling for action to be taken in preventing suicide in men and boys. Males account for more than 75% of suicides in Canada. Men are more likely to experience addiction and substance use issues compared to women; 81% of overdose deaths in BC in 2020 were male. Men and boys are also more likely to not graduate from high school and fewer university students are male, and a decline in traditional blue-collar industries means fewer jobs for unskilled workers. These factors all influence men’s suicide risk. Men also under-utilize mental health services, and they experience isolation more than women. Whitley says, “Given the gravity of the situation, there’s clearly an urgent need to create a… parliamentary inquiry here in Canada, with a free and frank discussion on the status of men’s mental health and well-being in our society. This could include a critical examination of policies and programs… Recognizing and addressing these issues that are faced by an alarming number of men and boys needs to be a part of national public policy. Otherwise, more and more of our sons, fathers, brothers, husbands, colleagues and friends are in danger of becoming alienated and isolated from society, leading to wasted potential, wrecked families and ruined lives.”

Could a Minister of Loneliness help Canada’s seniors through the pandemic’s isolation?CTV
January 28, 2021
This article explores the possibility of Canada introducing a Minister of Loneliness that could work to address the social isolation felt as the pandemic drags on. Older adults are one group especially affected by social isolation. “Loneliness and lack of socialization is one of the biggest factors towards older adults having mental health issues,” said Bill Vangorder of the Canadian Association for Retired People. Mental health counsellor Parneet Chohan says isolation can be difficult because, “We need each other’s nervous systems, we need other people to help us regulate ourselves, (such) someone else’s heartbeat having an impact on our heartbeat.”

We all play a role in preventing suicideYale School of Medicine
January 28, 2021
Youth suicides have been on the rise in the state of Connecticut – in October alone 4 teens died by suicide. Many young people have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many are learning remotely and are isolated from their peers. Open conversation is important with young people – “it’s okay to acknowledge that things are not okay.” Adults should be alert to the warning signs of suicide, which include talking about wanting to die, talking about feeling hopeless or trapped, and displaying extreme mood swings. Parents and guardians need to remember to take care of themselves, too, and reach out for help if needed.

Second officer from Capitol riot dies by suicide, police chief saysNBC News
January 28, 2021
Officer Jeffrey Smith was a 12 year veteran of the Metro Police Department in DC and defended the US Capitol during a mob attack on January 6. He’s the second officer to have died by suicide since the attack. Howard Liebengood, 51, of the Capitol Police also died by suicide. “Other harm from this traumatic day will be widely felt but possibly unacknowledged,” said Metro Police Department Chief Robert J. Contee III. “Law enforcement training neither anticipates nor prepares for hours of hand-to-hand combat.”

‘People were afraid to talk to me’: Chicago woman wants to promote conversations for those who lose someone to suicideChicago Tribune
January 27, 2021
Amy Kartheiser lost her brother to suicide in 2014, and found it difficult to share her experience with others. “People were afraid to talk to me,” said Kartheiser. “They didn’t know how to approach the subject… If he would have died by cancer, maybe they’d go, ‘Oh my gosh was he suffering, for how long did he have cancer, what kind was it, what kind of treatment was he getting. Cancer used to be the taboo subject. … It took so many years to get it to the forefront, where now we talk openly about it. And that’s really my goal with mental illness and with suicide.” Katheiser decided to create a charity, Under the Same Sky, to help finance a program at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that connects people who have lost someone to suicide to one another for support.

Suicide Rates May Rise After Natural Disasters Eos
January 26, 2021
A recent US study has found that rates of suicide increase during the first three years following a natural disaster. About one third of people affected by a disaster experience mental health problems after the fact, including PTSD, depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. “These are, in a sense, preventable deaths, because there should be opportunities for people to get assistance with these mental health problems after disasters,” said lead author Jennifer A. Horney, an epidemiologist at the University of Delaware in Newark. “There are programs in place to provide mental health assistance to people who’ve been impacted by disasters, and we would like policies to change [and] to expand people’s opportunities to receive that assistance, both through providing more assistance and also providing it for longer.”

Coronavirus: Toronto hospital nurse who died by suicide remembered as caring, dedicatedGlobal News
January 25, 2021
Stefanie Van Nguyen, 25 was a frontline health care worker who had been working steadily since the beginning of the pandemic. She died by suicide last month. Van Nguyen experienced depression, and longtime boyfriend Jason Parreno encouraged people to reach out to those who are struggling, “If you know someone dealing with depression or even just feeling sad, overwhelmed and stressed, please talk to someone, call your loves ones or seek professional help.” Doris Grinspun, the CEO of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario said, “… let’s check with one another, say to one another, ‘How are you doing,’ even if the person looks strong.” Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician and health-care advocate said of overwhelmed healthcare professionals working in a pandemic, “It’s a tragic scenario that causes everybody to stop and think, are we really processing what we’re experiencing? What are the long-term effects of what we’re seeing on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis?”

Suicide-related Google searches decreased significantly since onset of COVID-19 pandemicHealio
January 25, 2021
A new study has found that searches relating to suicide decreased in the early months of the pandemic. There was a decrease for all search terms containing the term “suicide” except “how many people commit suicide,” indicating that people may have been interested in suicide facts , according to researchers. Researchers also note, “Search rates for information on suicide may change, even increase, especially given a prolonged pandemic, making continued monitoring crucial. Moreover, researchers can extend the approach that we used (including tracking online help-seeking searches and social media shares) to empirically assess complementary proxies for other population mental health outcomes. Decisionmakers could track hundreds of mental health search queries, identify the subsets that have greater demand, and target resources to meet those needs.”

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