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:

Study led by B.C. prof finds 8% of school-age children have thought about or attempted suicideSaanich News
March 13, 2020
A study released last week has found that 8 in 100 school-age children have experienced thoughts of suicide and exhibited suicide behaviours. Dr. Sophia Frangou, psychiatry professor at the University of British Columbia led the international study, which examined data from the largest long-term brain development and child health study in the US; 11,875 children aged 9-10 years old were included in the study. “If you take into account differences across different states and the studies that have been done in Canada, which are smaller,” Frangou said, “when it comes to the most important factors … it’s family function and psychological problems in the children.” When asked about screen-time as a factor for suicide in children, Frangou said, “we have to be very careful how one interprets this. It is true that children who spend more time using different digital devices were more likely to have these suicidal thoughts, but we cannot say that this association is causal,” she said. “It’s equally likely that troubled children … they may find refuge and escape in engaging in different games.” Frangou believes the results of the study will be useful in suicide prevention, as, “The risk and protective factors we identified in this study are particularly useful as they can be addressed here and now, and modified through interventions aimed at identifying and targeting childhood mental health disorders, increasing school engagement, and providing support to families.”

How to Prevent Loneliness in a Time of Social DistancingScientific American
March 12, 2020
Following recommendations to practice “social distancing” and “self isolation” to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19 (coronavirus), many people will find themselves with fewer social contacts. This article suggests some ways we can still keep our social connections using technology. Some recommendations include: using video chat, sending messages of kindness on social media, finding an online community you identify with, and nurturing existing relationships digitally.

Post-concussion treatment, suicide prevention ‘a team sport,’ says lead researcher CBC
March 10, 2020
Following the suicide death of Taylor Pryor, 21, who died one year after sustaining a concussion injury playing soccer, a leading concussion expert has said that “This issue of suicide is always looming,” said Dr. Charles Tator, director of the Canadian Concussion Centre at Toronto Western Hospital. “We’re always worried about it because we do know that some people do commit suicide after suffering from this.” Tator says that concussions contribute to impulsivity, “The usual breaks that someone has that says, ‘No, don’t commit suicide’ aren’t there. So when the impulse arises … they can’t resist the impulse. So that sort of makes it doubly sad.” To prevent suicide in people who experience long-term concussion symptoms, long-term care may be required. Tator says that concussion care is a “team sport,” as it can include counselling, medication, cognitive behavioural therapy, and treating sleep disorders. 

Broken, fragmented health-care system failed daughter who died by suicide, family of Taylor Pryor saysCBC
March 9, 2020
Taylor Pryor, 21, died by suicide one year after sustaining a concussion injury while playing soccer. Immediately following her concussion, family members noticed a change in demeanour, according to mother Darseen, “We knew things weren’t right. She wasn’t the Taylor we knew. She was there, but she wasn’t there. She had a vacant look on her face.” Pryor began showing other concussion symptoms such as anger, sensitivity to light and lack of concentration, and four months after the concussion, she made her first suicide attempt. She was then seen by 13 psychiatrists and 5 medical doctors before being discharged against her wishes from Victoria Hospital. After being discharged, Pryor died by suicide, just days before being admitted into a long-term care program. Her family is now calling upon the system to improve coordination and continuity of care. “I have frustration and anger to how Taylor was treated. It just breaks your heart. She wasn’t treated as a person. She was treated as an illness. We need accountability for what went on,” said her father Doug. Before her death, Pryor was enthusiastic and full of energy, and had a passion for helping people. 

OPP making changes to workplace culture in response to officer suicidesCTV
March 9, 2020
A panel appointed by the Ontario government to look into the workplace culture of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) after the suicide deaths of 17 of its members since 2012 has released their report of recommendations. The report says, “The panel heard repeatedly and accepts the views of members that there is a negative workplace culture with the OPP that, in some locations, tolerates bullying, and harassment, and that overall the OPP does not have the necessary tools to respond appropriately to conflict.” Some of the 66 recommendations include improving access to mental health supports,  re-introducing accountability and transparency into its promotions process, and addressing workplace culture.

Midwest farmers face a crisis. Hundreds are dying by suicide.USA Today
March 9, 2020
A January study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US found that farmers are among those most likely to die by suicide, and more than 450 farmers died by suicide in 9 midwestern American states in the past 4 years. Sources of stress for farmers include increasing debt, decreasing commodity prices, and poor weather conditions. Many farmers, living in remote rural areas, also have restricted access to mental health supports. Even when supports are available, there is still a significant amount of stigma in this population that prevents them from seeking help. “In general, when men feel stressed, they pull back,” said Ted Matthews, a psychologist who works with farm families in Minnesota. Wisconsin’s state representative and chariwoman of the suicide prevention task force, Joan Ballweg, said, “Farmers feel that they’re most helped by someone who understands them. I’d like to see something that is dedicated (to farmers), like the national hotline number has a function for veterans.”

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