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:

Is the Pandemic Sparking Suicide?New York Times
May 19, 2020
Though we won’t know for several months if the suicide rate has increased as a result of the negative mental health outcomes of COVID-19, the impact on the suicide rate will provide researchers with useful data in understanding how extended uncertainty and prolonged periods of anxiety affect people’s will to live. “It’s a natural experiment, in a way,” said Matthew Nock, a psychology professor at Harvard. “There’s not only an increase in anxiety, but the more important piece is social isolation. We’ve never had anything like this — and we know social isolation is related to suicide.” Dr. Marianne Goodman, a psychiatrist at the Department of Veterans Affairs, says, “I think during the actual crisis, suicide will be lower, and once the longer-term economic impact is felt, I suspect, suicide will be rising again.”

Psychological Trauma Is the Next Crisis for Coronavirus Health WorkersScientific American
May 19, 2020
While everyone is facing uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, health care workers are also dealing with other factors, such as treating very ill patients each day and possibly worrying about infecting family members. “Our health care professionals are seeing incredibly sick people in what is really a tidal wave washing over them, and they are leaning into that work because it’s what we do,” says Colin West, an internist who has studied physician well-being at the Mayo Clinic for more than 15 years. Experts also worry about burnout, defined as “a combination of exhaustion, cynicism, and perceived inefficacy.” West says, “Burnout is a chronic response to health care conditions. This is an unprecedented acute crisis.”

Could COVID-19 Finally Destigmatize Mental Illness?Time
May 19, 2020
A research model has shown that deaths from mental health-related outcomes of COVID-19 (suicide, drug and alcohol use) could reach up to 75,00 people in the US. In this piece, Dr. Jessica Gold, assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University, says that the COVID-19 pandemic may bring much-needed attention to mental health, de-stigmatizing it and showing its value. Gold says, “The COVID-19 pandemic is a sort of equalizer. Nearly everyone is self-isolated at home, trying to work while managing a household, and dealing with uncertainty and grief. To some degree, everyone is experiencing what life with anxiety is like.”

Poorer middle-aged men most at risk from suicide in pandemic, say Samaritans
May 17, 2020
Samaritans, an organization that provides a helpline service in the UK, has analyzed feedback from their almost 2,000 volunteers who have worked the helpline throughout quarantine and have found that middle-aged men from backgrounds of living in poverty may be the “hidden victims” of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jacqui Morrissey, the Samaritans’ director of research, said, “From a suicide perspective, low-income middle-aged men have had significantly high rates for many years. We know already that people are struggling and that mental health for many is deteriorating. We’re hearing a lot more from people who are very anxious. We’re seeing high levels of distress.” Samaritans is calling on the government to include suicide prevention and mental health as central components of their COVID-19 recovery strategy.

Advocates try to address mental health for farmers as pandemic adds to stressCTV News
May 16, 2020
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers have had to sacrifice their crops and their animals due to a decrease in demand. Farmers often work in isolation in hyper-masculine environments and live with uncertain economic outcomes – they’ve been identified as one group with a heightened risk of suicide and the further economic pressures caused by COVID-19 have advocates calling for more conversation around farmer mental health. “A farmer who is stoic that doesn’t show signs of weakness and if you show signs of emotions, you are ‘less’ than, you are not a good farmer – and that’s simply not true,” said Lesley Kelly, a farmer from Saskatchewan and co-founder of Do More Ag, a non-profit organization advocating for farmer suicide prevention.
Find out more about why farmers may have a higher risk of suicide and how farmer suicide can be prevented with our interview on Ag Thoughts with Emmett.

With School Buildings Closed, Children’s Mental Health Is SufferingNPR
May 14, 2020
Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Hospital, is the editor-in-chief of the journal JAMA Pediatrics. He published a piece last week arguing that the risks to children’s learning, social-emotional development and mental health are becoming imbalanced through the COVID-19 pandemic, and Christakis argues, “The decision to close schools initially, and now to potentially keep them closed, isn’t, I think, taking the full measure of the impact this is going to have on children. Not just the short term, but the long term… The social-emotional needs of children to connect with other children in real time and space, whether it’s for physical activity, unstructured play or structured play, this is immensely important for young children in particular.”

The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on global mental health is “already extremely concerning,” UN saysCNN
May 14, 2020
Around the world, the United Nations and World Health Organization have found a “high prevalence” of mental distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among healthcare workers and children. 47% of heath care workers in Canada have reported a need for mental health support, and 50% of health care workers in China have reported depression. 32% of young people with a history of mental illness in the UK reported that the pandemic had made their mental health worse. “Social isolation, fear of contagion, and loss of family members is compounded by the distress caused by loss of income and often employment. It is now crystal clear that mental health needs must be treated as a core element of our response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said WHO Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “This is a collective responsibility of governments and civil society, with the support of the whole United Nations System. A failure to take people’s emotional well-being seriously will lead to long-term social and economic costs to society.”

Japan suicides decline as Covid-19 lockdown causes shift in stress factorsGuardian
May 14, 2020
In April 2020, the suicide rate in Japan fell 20% compared with the same time last year. This is the biggest drop in suicides in 5 years. Japan has seen an increase in suicide in young people, and, as the commencement of their school year has been postponed due to COVID-19, some wonder if this may have led to a reduction in suicides. “School is a pressure for some young people, but this April there is no such pressure,” said Yukio Saito, a former head of telephone counselling service the Japanese Federation of Inochi-no-Denwa. “At home with their families, they feel safe.” Saito said that often, during national crisis and disasters, the suicide rate will decrease, and it is speculated that, because many people are no longer going in to the office to work long hours, their mental health may have benefited and led to a decrease in suicides. Saito also notes that economic and work pressures are factors in suicide, and a prolonged economic downturn could lead to a rebound in the suicide rate.

Modeling shows path to suicide prevention in COVID-19 recovery Medical Xpress
April 14, 2020
New modeling released by the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre combined productivity and suicide data to show the benefits of acting quickly and effectively to respond to mental health concerns during COVID-19. The model demonstrates that taking a holistic approach to suicide prevention is effective for the treatment of mental health and is also economically favourable. “The results show the impact different levels of investment in mental health programs and services will play a vital role in supplementing efforts to increase community connectedness and the social and economic supports required to help flatten this curve,” said Professor Hickie, Brain and Mind Centre co-director of health and policy. “In the same way that hospital beds and intensive care capacity were increased in preparation for COVID-19 cases, the national capacity to provide rapid and effective care for those with a mental health crisis can be increased immediately.”

Senate passes bill to designate three-digit number for national suicide hotlineCNN
May 14, 2020
The American Senate passed a bill last week that seeks to make the national suicide hotline in the US a 3-digit number so it can be more easily accessed and remembered by people in crisis. The bill will now go on to the House of Representatives. Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, a co-sponsor of the bill said, “Access to mental health care is especially important during this trying time filled with grief and uncertainty for so many people. It’s almost impossible to remember the current 10-digit hotline.”

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