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:

A pharmacy professional’s role in suicide preventionAlberta College of Pharmacy
July 22, 2020
Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide and there are a few things that pharmacists can do in particular. Pharmacists are in a unique position to help someone, as, according to Mara Grunau, executive director at the Centre for Suicide Prevention, “People in crisis don’t typically walk into a counselling site. People want to talk to someone in their world, someone they see on a regular basis. Most people need encouragement to get to a mental health professional, so it’s important to train and educate the general community.” Pharmacists can pick up on specific warning signs such as a change in behaviour, for example, if they’re coming in all the time, and then they’re not coming in, or the reverse; a change in outlook, for example, if they’re typically a positive person, then they seem down all the time, or the reverse; making fatalistic comments, such as, “I won’t be seeing you again.” Grunau explains that this is an invitation to pause and ask, “Are you going on holidays?” or “What do you mean I’m not going to see you again? Are you moving?” They can also ask their patient if they know what medication is in their house, if is it locked, and if there are any young people who could access it. Pharmacists who are worried about a patient can call 911, but they can also instead connect that patient to social supports.

Racial discrimination linked to suicideMedical Xpress
August 3, 2020
Two recent studies have found that the psychological pain caused by racial discrimination is linked to the ability to die by suicide. “Our findings demonstrate that for Black adults, perceived discrimination serves as a sufficiently painful experience that is directly associated with higher capability to overcome one’s inherent fear of death and achieve an increased capacity for self-harm,” reports Rheeda Walker, professor of psychology, director of the University of Houston’s Culture, Risk and Resilience Lab, and researcher involved in the studies. “For Black adults, perceived discrimination accounted for statistically significant variance above and beyond both feelings of depression and non-discriminatory stressors in predicting suicide capability. For white adults, perceived discrimination was not uniquely associated with capability for suicide.”

The Best Ways to Prevent SuicidePsychology Today Canada
August 2, 2020
This article discusses some of the themes found in best suicide prevention practices. Among people who were receiving mental health services, best practices included service providers promoting safer environments, developing stronger relationships with patients and families, providing timely access to tailored and appropriate care, facilitating a seamless transition, and establishing a sufficiently skilled, resourced, and supported staff team. Among suicide prevention programs, the most effective practices include means restriction. Suicide prevention public awareness campaigns were found to be most helpful when they express that “pain isn’t obvious, suicide is preventable, know the warning signs of suicide, find the words to talk to someone you are concerned may be at risk; and you are not alone in helping that person—there are resources available.”

Hunger strike begins at Sask. legislature following 635-km suicide prevention trekGlobal
August 1, 2020
Tristen Durocher and Christopher Meratsy, leaders of a suicide prevention walk from La Ronge to Regina, Saskatchewan that spanned 28 days and 635 kilometres, along with their supporters, have arrived at the legislature in Regina. They walked to raise awareness for suicide prevention in the province, following the rejection of a bill to implement the province’s suicide prevention strategy. “Not only is (the strategy) vague and meaningless, but there’s no validity and no accountability,” said Durocher. Saskatchewan has a suicide rate of 29.7 per 100,000, which is three times higher than the Canadian average, and some First Nations and Metis communities experience even higher rates, especially among youth.

Google searches during pandemic hint at future increase in suicideEurekAlert!
July 31, 2020
A new study has found that Google searches in the US related to financial difficulties and disaster relief increased in the months of March and April, while searches about suicide decreased compared to pre-COVID. “The scale of the increase in Google searches related to financial distress and disaster relief during the early months of the pandemic was remarkable, so this finding is concerning,” says Madelyn Gould, PhD, MPH, Irving Philips Professor of Epidemiology in Psychiatry at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and senior author of the study. “It seems as though individuals are grappling with the immediate stresses of job loss and isolation and are reaching out to crisis services for help, but the impact on suicidal behavior hasn’t yet manifested.”

Thunder Bay police issue public safety alert over rise in suicideCBC
July 31, 2020
Following an increase in suicides and attempted suicides over the past month, police in Thunder Bay have issued a public safety alert and are encouraging everyone to reach out to their loved ones who may be struggling with mental health or addiction issues.

Michael Phelps’ ‘Weight of Gold’: Olympians face epidemic of suicideInsider
July 29, 2020
A new HBO documentary narrated and co-produced by Michael Phelps examines the issue of suicide in Olympic athletes, who may be especially vulnerable to mental health issues, speculated Phelps, due to “some sort of post-Olympic depression.” Athletes who make it to the Olympics have generally zeroed-in on that one goal, and immense pressure is placed on their moment to perform. Olympians also have financial pressures, and many take second jobs to sustain the training and travel necessary for their success. Olympic athletes may also find it difficult to set themselves up for retirement, as often, even winning a gold medal doesn’t provide sufficient income. Identity crisis upon retirement also may make them vulnerable, says Phelps, “Yeah I won a s–t-ton of medals. I had a great career. So what? I  thought of myself as ‘just a swimmer,’Not a human being.” Athletes featured in the documentary hope to break down the stigma of mental health and suicide among the Olympian and civilian communities.

Traces of Lithium in Drinking Water May Have ‘Anti-Suicidal Effect’ Newsweek
July 28, 2020
New research suggests a link between lower suicide rates and small amounts of lithium in drinking water. The research examined analysis of data from the US, Japan, Austria, England, Greece, Italy and Lithuania, comparing drinking water samples to suicide death data. The results of this examination show that lithium in drinking water may protect against suicide at a population level. Lithium is used to prevent and treat manic depressive episodes, stabilizing mood, and lowering suicide risk. “Whether the results of this review truly indicate a potentially useful element for suicide prevention policy remains unclear. Nevertheless, there would appear to be grounds for further investigating whether supplementing lithium levels in domestic water supplies could help to prevent some deaths, especially in countries with higher suicide rates,”said Professor Keith Hawton, director of the Centre for Suicide Research the U.K.’s University of Oxford who did not work on the study,

Supportive communities and progressive politics can reduce suicide risk among LGBTQ girls – EurekAlert! Science News
July 28, 2020
Research from UBC’s School of Nursing has found that supportive communities, as well as a progressive political climate, can help alleviate the effects of stigma on the mental health of those in the LGBTQ community. Particularly lesbian and bisexual girls were found to have a decrease in suicidal thoughts and attempts if they were involved in a community support service or different LGBTQ events. “The impact of stigma and discrimination continues to put the health of LGBTQ youth at risk, but this risk isn’t equal everywhere in B.C.,” said lead researcher Elizabeth Saewyc, a UBC nursing professor and director of Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre (SARAVYC). “Our research found that where lesbian, gay and bisexual youth live–their community environment, and the kind of LGBTQ-inclusive supports that are or aren’t there–appears to play a role in their odds of suicidality and self-harm.”

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