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:

Alberta’s suicide rate seems to have declined in 2020Red Deer Advocate
March 3, 2021
Preliminary data is showing a decline in the suicide rate in Alberta, however, there is typically a lag time between a negative event and an increase in suicide – usually around 18 to 24 months. “The jury’s still out (on whether or not we’ll see an increase in the suicide rate),” said Mara Grunau, executive director of the Centre for Suicide Prevention. Grunau cautioned against drawing conclusions based on preliminary data, as it can take up to two years to receive final suicide numbers from provincial coroners, and we haven’t yet seen the long-term impacts of the pandemic.
Check out the latest suicide stats here

Opinion: Four thousand Canadians are lost to suicide every year. A universal prevention line could save some of them Toronto Star
March 7, 2021
In this opinion piece, Louise Bradley, CEO and president of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, advocates for a 3-digit Canada-wide suicide prevention line. Bradley says, “My concern (with not having a 3-digit line across Canada) is that when people find the courage to seek help, especially in a moment of crisis or deep vulnerability, they may not know where to turn. I am certainly not alone in this worry. It is echoed by all 338 members of Parliament… and the 34,000 people who signed a petition… it has been chorused by advocacy groups and voices of lived experience.” Bradley also acknowledges that,”The implementation of a three-digit suicide prevention line will not be easy. It will require co-operation between all levels of government and the will of powerful industry partners. But if you were among the one in 20 overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts, and a three-digit line could save your life, what lengths would be too far to go?”
Related – North Okanagan MP pushes for national suicide hotlineVernon Morning Star

Meghan Markle Says She Contemplated Suicide: ‘I Just Didn’t Want To Be Alive Anymore’ HuffPost
March 7, 2021
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, opened up about having thoughts of suicide while she was working as a royal. Of opening up about her thoughts to Prince Harry, Markle said, “I knew that if I didn’t say that I would do it … and I just didn’t ― I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.” She said she was unable to find help during her time in the Royal Palace. “I share this because there’s so many people who are afraid to voice that they need help. And I know personally how hard it is to not just voice it, but when you voice it to be told no.”

Clinicians’ Language Choice Can Impact Care of Patients With Suicidal IdeationPsychiatry & Behavioral Health Learning Network
March 7, 2021
Jill Harkavy-Friedman, PhD, Vice President of Research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, discusses the importance of clinicians shifting their language in discussions with patients who have thoughts of suicide. Clinicians should understand what the patient is going through so that they can be more informed about what next steps should be to support that patient. They should also not be afraid of using the word ‘suicide,’ and phrases such as ‘died by suicide’ and ‘took their life,’ should be used in reference to patients who die by suicide, as opposed to using the terminology ‘successful’ or ‘unsuccessful’ to describe a suicide attempt. It’s also vital for clinicians to retrieve informed consent from the patient along with an emergency contact, so that the clinician can contact that person if there is ever a crisis. Knowing about what methods the patient is considering can also be helpful, as clinicians can then work with the patient to discuss how access to that method could be limited.

Prince William and Kate reach out to U.K. teen struggling with suicideCTV News
March 5, 2021
As part of their ‘Heads Together’ mental health campaign, Prince William and Kate the Duchess of Cambridge released a video of the couple speaking with ‘Jack,’ a 12-year old who reached out for help via a text-based crisis line while he was preparing to attempt suicide, and his family. They commended Jack on his bravery for reaching out and sharing his story with them.

Teens who misuse prescription opioids at higher risk for suicideCNN
March 5, 2021
A new study has found that one in three high school students who attempted suicide reported misusing prescription opioids at the time of their attempt.

Opinion: Lack of evidence-based medicine in debate around new MAID law should concern CanadiansCBC
March 4, 2012
Dr. Mark Sinyor, psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, testified before the Senate of Canada in their deliberations about the medical assistance in dying (MAID) legislation. Proposed changes to the legislation would extend MAID to those experiencing intolerable suffering and who are not approaching the natural end of their lives, including those with mental illness. Sinyor says, “Those who want this practice to go forward for people with mental illness are making a number of scientifically testable claims. These include the claim that some mental disorders result in patients experiencing enduring, intolerable suffering which cannot be remedied by evidence-based psychiatric treatment; that we can reliably identify such patients; that we can clearly distinguish such wishes from irrational suicidal thoughts; and that legalizing this practice will cause no harm to psychiatric care or suicide prevention in Canada.” There are further claims, as explained by Sinyor, who explains, “The key point is that one could devise a study to examine each concern according to usual standards of scientific rigour. It’s just that some people supporting this legislation don’t seem to think that is necessary or worth doing.”

Study finds Bell Let’s Talk Day is ineffective at reducing suicides in OntarioThe Star Calgary
March 2, 2021
A new study has been released that explores the efficacy of ‘Bell Let’s Talk’, a campaign of Bell Media that encourages open conversation about mental health and raises money for mental health programs. The study found that there was no immediate impact on suicide rates in Ontario following the annual ‘Bell Let’s Talk Day’ which takes place each year in January, between 2011 and 2016. Dr. Mark Sinyor, a staff psychiatrist at Sunnybrook and lead author of the study said the findings were surprising as previous research has found hopeful tweets about suicide and mental health are known to prevent suicide deaths. “We know that people learn from others, both offline and online, and in what they read in the media. When you share with vulnerable people stories of survival, you often see survival more than you would otherwise,” said Sinyor. The majority of tweets sent out for Bell Let’s Talk Day, 68%, were generally commenting on suicide, while 42% highlighted suicide as a problem. Only 0.6% of tweets contained stories of resilience, and 2% shared messages of hope. “The way that I view these results is that there may be an opportunity here that we could leverage that so far hasn’t been harnessed,” Sinyor concluded. “The research that I’ve conducted and that had been conducted by many of my colleagues worldwide shows very clearly that there are specific stories and information that one can present related to suicide in public that really can save lives.”

Coon calls for public inquiry in wake of Fredericton teen’s suicideCBC
March 2, 2021
New Brunswick Green Party leader David Coon is calling for a public inquiry into the suicide death of Lexi Daken, who was 16 when she died by suicide after having waited at the emergency room for hours without mental health counselling. She died by suicide less than a week later. “Too many teens in crisis have been turned back from emergency rooms without getting help, without getting admitted into a safe place where they won’t be able to harm themselves,” said Coon. “The system failed Lexi, and it has failed other teens before her.”
Related – Premiers cite long waits for cancer patients, N.B. teen’s suicide in pitch for more federal health fundingCBC

HuffPost Personal: My Son Took His Own Life. Here’s Why You Should Stop Saying ‘Committed Suicide.’ HuffPost
March 1, 2021
Julia Park Tracey talks about her experience in losing her son, Austin, 21, to suicide in 2019. Park Tracey asks that people stop using the term ‘committed’ when talking about suicide, and instead use ‘died by’. As Park Tracey explains, “Although this piece is really about the semantics, it also comes back to how we can speak of our dead with love and deep compassion. Saying that your loved one committed suicide seems like the ultimate act of betrayal ― blaming them for their own illness and suffering. Bring them back to the light, your conversation, your family history, your mantel or photo album, with loving compassion, by proclaiming that they died by suicide, of whatever sadness or desolation, lack of serotonin or missed synapses in their brains that forced them into a corner. They were ill, they ended their pain, and we mourn them. It’s time to stop hiding our suffering and to start blaming the disease instead of the afflicted.”

Subscribe to this weekly mailing list