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:

‘Breaking the Silence’ walk and run goes virtual, province-wideRD News Now
June 12, 2020
Centre for Suicide Prevention is one of two Calgary charities, alongside the Alex, to be participating in the 6th annual ‘Breaking the Silence’ event, a province-wide walk for mental health awareness and education. This year event organizers Edmonton-based Mental Health Foundation broadened the offering of charities participants can donate to, and Centre for Suicide Prevention was honoured to be included in that list. Breaking the Silence, usually a one-day event, will take place during the week of June 20-27. Along with a virtual walk and run event, 20 events featuring mental health experts will be hosted on Zoom. “We’re all under stress right now, feeling isolated or uncertain about the future. Our mental health isn’t always top of mind, and fewer individuals are reaching out to access resources due to social distancing,” says Mark Korthuis, foundation CEO. “We want this year’s event to be a way to feel connected and have fun with the community, while having the opportunity to learn about available resources and get moving to support our mental health.”

Northern Sask. suicide prevention plan needed more consultation: advocatesHumboldt Journal
June 14, 2020
The government of Saskatchewan released a suicide prevention plan for the province in May, called Pillars of Life Rural and Remote Health Minister Warren Kaeding  said, “This plan will guide activities specific to suicide prevention based on Saskatchewan’s context.  It was informed by careful consideration of approaches across the country and international best practice.” The plan will be implemented in three Saskatchewan communities: La Ronge, Meadow Lake and Buffalo Narrows.  Rebecca Rackow, director of advocacy research and public policy development for the Canadian Mental Health Association – Saskatchewan, said the government did little consultation with grassroots organizations: “The unfortunate thing is that they didn’t collaborate with any community based organizations such as ourselves when they created this. Some of us who get a lot of calls from people with lived experience or family members didn’t have any input into that at all. It’s good, but it’s not good enough. There should have been community members and community based organizations consulted as well, because about one per cent of the time that people exist with suicide ideation is in the hospital and the other 99 per cent of the time they’re in community.”

‘This Is Us’ writer Jas Waters cause of death revealedGlobal
June 12, 2020
Jas Waters, 39, died by suicide last week. Waters was a writer for TV series This is Us and Kidding, among others. “This is a devastating loss for those who knew her and lived in her light,” said Dave Holstein, Kidding showrunner. “One of my favorite lines of hers is resonating especially loud with me today: Our scars do not mean we are broken. They are proof we are healed.” This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman tweeted, “This news took my breath away. Jas was absolutely brilliant and had so many stories still to tell. She made an indelible mark on our show and my heart breaks for her loved ones.”

A son’s suicide, a mother’s grief, and her message of hope for othersCBC
June 13, 2020
Tyler Pittman died by suicide this past May, and his mother Helen Pittman recalls his struggle with mental illness, starting from around age 11, when he started to become anxious. A few years later, he started taking drugs and drinking alcohol to cope. Following that, his mental illness became worse and his mother struggled to find a regular doctor to support him. Helen says, “it just seemed like he was repeating his story over and over and over, and nobody was listening.” Tyler opened up about having thoughts of suicide and was transported to hospital. Shortly after, he was released with a referral. He was frustrated and expressed that he wanted more help. Tyler struggled with and sought help for his mental health and addiction issues for a number of years and when the COVID-19 outbreak occurred, he moved back home to St. John’s. He was working on home renovations and doing well until he relapsed. Shortly following that, he died by suicide. “My fear is that people will say he took the easy way out,” said, Helen, adding nothing could be further from the truth. “His life wasn’t easy. He suffered every single day … it was brave of him to get up every day. The message that I want to get out to people is that, don’t give up. I would say this to Tyler: as long as you got another day, and you open your eyes, and you can breathe, there’s always hope.”

Loss of farm legacy called major suicide factorThe Western Producer
June 11, 2020
Farmers face unique stress due to their profession, including the unpredictability of the sector, high levels of daily stress due to workload, time constraints and financial pressures. Some farmers may also have feelings of guilt and shame if they have to shut down family owned operations. “The number one thing that everyone has in common (when considering suicide) is they’ve reached a level of hopelessness and helplessness, and it’s not even so much that they aren’t able to help themselves anymore,” said Cynthia Beck, a Saskatchewan rancher and research assistant with Suicide Intervention Response. “The most difficult thing for a farmer or ag producer to deal with is if they feel like they’re not helping their family anymore or they feel like they’re not helping the farm anymore. Because let’s face it, most of us are on generational farms. It was our parents who started this farm and the parents before them.” Beck suggests keeping an eye out for those who may be struggling, and having a conversation with them by asking how they’re really doing, “Then when they start talking, be quiet and listen. Don’t try to solve their problems because it doesn’t matter what you say or do; you are not the person who can solve their problems. Listening to them is the number one beneficial thing that you can do for somebody and provide them with a non-judgemental platform.”

Opinion: Coronavirus Could Make America’s Gun Problem Even DeadlierNew York Times
June 11, 2020
*Method warning* The authors of a new study about the connection between suicide and handgun ownership have written this opinion piece, highlighting the fact that people who think about suicide will not often deviate from the method of suicide they have chosen, “Several myths cloud public understanding of the connection between guns and suicide. Perhaps the most pernicious is the idea that people who really want to end their lives will find a way to do it, making the presence or absence of a gun somewhat irrelevant,” say study authors David Studdert, Matthew Miller, and Garen Wintemute. As well, the lethality of that method plays a huge role in whether or not that person will go on to live and recover, say authors, “A vast majority of people who attempt suicide survive and do not go on to die in a future suicide. But whether attempters get that second chance at life depends a lot on the method they use, which in turn depends on what is readily at hand. Firearms afford few second chances. In sum, methods matter.” Ultimately, the study found that handgun owners have much higher rates of suicide than those who do not own handguns – men’s suicide rates were 8 times higher and women’s were 35.

The Millennial Mental-Health CrisisThe Atlantic
June 11, 2020
A report has found that, in the US, the mortality rates for people 25 to 34 have risen by 20% since 2008: “That is, mortality rates among millennials ages 20 to 34 were substantially higher in 2016 than among their counterparts from Generation X when they were [their age] exactly 16 years earlier.” Main contributors to this increase include suicides and drug overdoses. One reason millennials may be struggling is that those with less education face more financial strain than in previous generations. “Jobs are a source of meaning in our lives,” says Cheryl Fulton, a professor in the counseling program at Texas State University. “So if you don’t have a job or are underemployed, you’re not deriving that satisfaction that comes from the meaning and purpose a job provides.” These suicides can be prevented by making people feel less alone and assuring them that they are loved and cared for.

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