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:

Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
March 22, 2020
Doreen Marshall, Phd, of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, says, “Human beings like certainty.  We are hard-wired to want to know what is happening when and to notice things that feel threatening to us.  When things feel uncertain or when we don’t generally feel safe, it’s normal to feel stressed.  This very reaction, while there to protect us, can cause all sorts of havoc when there is a sense of uncertainty and conflicting information around us.” That’s why, during this time of collective uncertainty, it’s important to maintain our mental health. Marshall suggests: “Separate what is in your control from what is not; do what helps you feels a sense of safety; get outside in nature – even if you are avoiding crowds; challenge yourself to stay present; and stay connected and reach out if you need more support.”

Supporting Your Mental Health While Navigating Change American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
March 20, 2020
Change, and especially forced change, “has a potential impact on our mental wellness,” according to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Doreen Marshall, PhD. Marshall recommends “reaching out to who and what you know helps in times of anxiety”, as well as “doing things you know help take care of you, like exercise and healthy eating… Challenge negative beliefs about change” and “go in the direction of the change,” because “what’s happening right now is moving us all in a direction to be more mindful of how we are in the world, how we relate to one another, and how we take care of our health.” Crisis services are still available for people who are struggling with their mental health. In Canada, call 1-833-456-4566 or text 45656.

Feeling anxious about coronavirus? There’s an app for that.Vox
March 20, 2020
Many in-person mental health services are no longer available due to COVID-19, however, services are still available via phone, and through apps and text services. Despite the widespread use of apps and text services, it is important to acknowledge that they are first and foremost “wellness” services and not necessarily effective for mental health. John Torous, the director of digital psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center says, “It’s not saying don’t use them; it’s saying be an informed consumer of health care, like you would for anything. I think even the people who make them would say they’re not close to a substitute for care.”

Is there a right way to worry about coronavirus? And other mental health tipsGuardian
March 19, 2020
Psychiatrist Richa Bhatia recommends acknowledging anxiety as a normal evolutionary reaction to perceived threat, then reframing that anxiety as simply “a set of feelings, thoughts and emotions… (that will) come and go and they will pass.” If worry becomes overwhelming, Bhatia suggests scheduling it into your day, creating a “worry period” in which worries can be explored and then set aside. Setting new rituals during self isolation can also be useful, for example, in the time normally spent commuting, try new rituals such as writing, taking a walk, or speaking with a family member on FaceTime. This is a global experience, Bhatia says, and “Everybody’s affected to different degrees, but the bottom line is that everybody’s in it together, and scientists all over the world are trying to work on it together to find a solution quickly.”

Opinion: Failure to address coronavirus mental health issues will prolong impact The Hill
March 19, 2020
Authors of this opinion piece addressing American governments, suggest governments prioritize a coordinated response to ensure the health and well being of citizens long after the COVID-19 pandemic, by using transparent, science-based communications – conflicting and confusing information can lead to an increase in people seeking medical help and can overwhelm the system. Authors also say, “People need actionable information about when, where, why and how to seek care… Message points must be culturally informed, targeted based on regional demographics, and vetted by professionals.” The psychological trauma that will happen as a result of a global pandemic should be addressed proactively. The authors cite a survey from Hong Kong following the outbreak of the SARS epidemic, where two-thirds expressed feelings of helplessness and felt that their mental health had been affected, while 16%  demonstrated PTSD symptoms. The authors say, “Given that we are already struggling to address a mental health crisis in this country — with overdose rates at historical levels and suicide, the fourth leading cause of death for adults between 18-65 — the importance of efforts to lessen the impact of trauma and other mental health implications cannot be overemphasized.”

Maintaining mental health and mindfulness during the COVID-19 pandemicCBC
March 23, 2020″This is an unprecedented time right now. We really are experiencing a lot of emotional rollercoasters,” says Myrna Kanigan, director of programs for Family Service Saskatoon. She believes people should reframe the idea of “social distancing” to a temporary “physical distancing.” Gordon Asmundson, a psychology professor at the University of Regina who is researching the psychological impact of viral outbreaks, discusses the importance of maintaining mental balance. He also said people should “stay informed but don’t over consume news or social media,” and suggested shifting perspectives, “Try not to view this as ‘I’m stuck inside’ and instead view this as an opportunity to focus on yourself, your home, your family,” he said. Adam Stacey, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Saskatchewan, emphasizes the importance of remaining calm around children if we’re working from home, as children look to adults for cues in how to respond to their environment. “If we are reacting in a panicked, quite reactive manner that’s going to influence their response,” said Stacey. 

Coronavirus: How to protect your mental healthBBC
March 16, 2020
During these uncertain times, it’s important to take care of our mental health. Limiting news intake, being careful what we choose to read, taking breaks from social media, and staying connected with people are some important ways mental health can be maintained in the face of uncertainty. Some are struggling more than others, and Lily Bailey, an author living with OCD says that advice about hand washing can be a trigger for people who are recovering from OCD. “It’s really difficult because I now have to do some of the behaviours that I’ve been avoiding,” says Bailey. “I’m sticking to the advice really rigidly but it’s hard, considering that for me, soap and sanitizer used to be something comparable to an addiction.”

Social distancing prevents infections, but it can have unintended consequences Science
March 16, 2020
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are being asked to distance themselves from one another, and experts are worried this could have detrimental effects to mental health. “The coronavirus spreading around the world is calling on us to suppress our profoundly human and evolutionarily hard-wired impulses for connection: seeing our friends, getting together in groups, or touching each other,” says Nicholas Christakis, a social scientist and physician at Yale University. Chris Segrin, a behavioural scientist at the University of Aritzona says that, “When we interact with other people, a lot of the meaning conveyed between two people is actually not conveyed in the actual words, but in nonverbal behavior,” he says. “(Electronic media are ) not as good as face to face interactions, but they’re infinitely better than no interaction.”

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