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:

Fiddler walking from La Ronge to Regina to protest suicide prevention bill rejectionHumboldt Journal
July 6, 2020
Métis fiddler Tristen Durocher is leading a group of protesters from La Ronge to Regina, Saskatchewan to protest the provincial government’s refusal to pass a suicide prevention bill. “The lack of action and the complete indifference of our elected members who are in power is lethal and is killing and I’m sick of it. Those are our youth and our people,” said Durocher. Supporter Christopher Merasty, founder of a men’s support group in La Ronge called Men of the North, said, “If we have a concrete plan in place, and we stick with it, be consistent with it, I’m sure that we are going to save lives. We need to address this, and we need to change this.” Suicide is the leading cause of death for those ages 10-49 in Saskatchewan, and while the province has a suicide prevention plan, Pillars for Life, there is not binding legislation attached to it. 

Opinion: Toxic medical culture needs to end – for a healthy society, we need healthy doctors CBC
July 2, 2020
Dr. Ferrukh Faruqui, a family doctor who teaches in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Ottawa, draws attention in this opinion piece to the fact that physicians are suffering and dying due to mental health concerns, and that they face immense stigma in seeking help: “The stigma attached to mental illness is real. It’s amplified exponentially in medicine, where weakness isn’t tolerated. Coping with unprecedented workloads in the face of health care cuts and societal scrutiny, doctors were physically and mentally exhausted well before the pandemic struck.” In the US, almost 400 physicians die by suicide annually, but in Canada, we don’t keep track of these numbers. However, data from the National Physician Health Survey done in 2018 by the Canadian Medical Association found that 34% of respondents screened positive for depression, and 19% thought about suicide, while only 15% sought help. Faruqui argues that we will need to continue to support physicians after the pandemic has passed, because, “For a healthy society, we need healthy doctors. We need to begin a national conversation to revolutionize health care, and to say goodbye to toxic medical culture. It’s time to care for the doctors who care for us.”

Suicide rate projected to increase as unemployment jumps from coronavirus outbreakPsyPost
July 2, 2020
A recently published study has projected increases in suicide in Canada as a consequence of COVID-19, and particularly, the economic fallout of the pandemic. “I have provided care for more than 20 years for people with mood disorders who are very often experiencing suicidal thinking. We are in need to prevent suicide,” said Roger S. McIntyre, the lead author of the study and a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto. “The link between unemployment, economic shock and suicide is highly replicated in population health. The anxiety of the virus with the economic shock, along with the physical distancing, is an unprecedented assault on mental health. By conducting this analysis, we are able to get ahead of the curve of mental illness and suicide.” Authors also say that the numbers are just a projection, and they believe that if the proper mental health supports are put in place these suicides can be prevented.

Addressing mental health critical as Regina suicide numbers trend upward CTV
July 1, 2020
The Regina Police Service recently released data that show there were 20 suicides between January and June 2020. In the same time period last year, there were 13. Donna Bowyer, CSP Trainer and provincial director of the Canadian Mental Health Association H.O.P.E Learning Centre in Regina, said that access to mental health services is vital, and mental health is just as important as physical health: “It’s just as crucial for people to be able to get the services and the support for somebody who’s having thoughts of suicide or suicidal behaviour.” Bowyer also emphasized the need for someone to have the support of peers and loved ones in their lives, “A lot of times you have your professional, but you don’t have that somebody you can sit down with who truly does understand what it’s like to struggle with depression or anxiety.” 

The mental health impact on ambulance staff of responding to suicide callsConversation UK
July 1, 2020
MIND, a UK mental health organization, reports that around 9 in 10 emergency services staff have experienced poor mental health in their career. The authors of this article interviewed 9 ambulance staff, all of whom had lost at least one colleague to suicide and said that responding to suicides was part of their job. Interviewees said they have intense memories of suicide calls, and that managers did not offer any additional support for them to cope with the experience. Instead, they felt pressure to keep working, or they felt stigma in asking for help. Interviewees also said that they had no training to respond to suicides or to support others on the scene of a suicide. Authors of this article say, “There is still a need for better awareness by the general public of how to talk about suicide and how to help those struggling to help prevent these unnecessary deaths. Opening a dialogue about suicide and the impact that it can have may help reduce stigma in the future and allow those who most need help to be able to receive it.”

We Need to Talk About Black Youth Suicide Right Now, Says Dr. Michael LindseyPeople
June 30, 2020
Dr. Michael A. Lindsey, who leads a working group of experts supporting the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health, wrote this article to bring attention to the issue of suicide among black youth. Suicide rates among black youth are double that of white youth, and black youth are exposed to racism and discrimination, which affects their mental health. “When Black kids see photos and videos of a [typically] unarmed Black person being killed by law enforcement or vigilantes — as in the recent cases of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery — it makes them question their reality. They can feel hopeless. When they see the video of George Floyd’s death, they may see themselves, or a loved one. It is traumatizing. It conjures up anxiety about whether that might happen to them, and can make them feel incredibly vulnerable,” says Lindsey. The stress and trauma of poverty is another contributing factor, as well as limited access to mental health supports. Lindsey finds hope in the protests and activism that have been taking place, “They give me strength that we’re having these important conversations, and it’s not even that we’re talking about pure racism anymore, but we are taking account of structural racism and how insidious it is. Perhaps change is possible.”

‘Tragically High’ Suicide Rate Accompanies Schizophrenia DiagnosisPsychiatry & Behavioural Health Network
June 29, 2020
A new study has found that people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders have a suicide rate 170 times higher than those in the general population. “In the past, clinicians have focused on treating the psychosis itself when it first appears,” said senior author Paul Kurdyak, MD, PhD, of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. “This study shows that treatment has to include suicide prevention safety planning as well from the very beginning.” 
Learn more about safety planning in our resource toolkit on the subject.

Saving Lives from Suicide During a PandemicPsychology Today Canada
June 29, 2020
We are not yet sure what effect the pandemic will have on suicide rates, but we can be aware that there are ways to help someone who is thinking about suicide. We can also be proactive in addressing suicide. An article published in April in JAMA suggests: “Distinguishing physical distance from social distance; Connecting people to tele–mental health; Increasing access to mental healthcare; Educating people on evidence-based suicide prevention interventions designed to be offered remotely; and Enforcing safe media reporting guidelines.” The BeThe1To campaign suggests ways we can all, as individuals, help prevent suicide, by asking someone we’re worried about how they’re doing, and if they’re thinking about suicide; keeping them safe until they reach help; being there for them; helping them connect to mental health supports; and following up with them to let them know we’re there to support them.

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