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:

Conservative MP calls for nationwide three-digit suicide hotlineCBC
November 6, 2020
Todd Doherty, MP for Cariboo-Prince George has tabled a motion in Parliament asking for a three-digit hotline that would bring together all suicide prevention services under one national line. “I believe that we must do everything in our power to prepare for that onslaught of mental health issues and challenges that we’re going to face due to COVID,” said Doherty. “When they’re at that point where they want to ask for help, a simple, easy, three-digit number to remember could make the difference between a life saved and a life lost.” While Canada does have a nation-wide suicide prevention number, Canada Suicide Prevention Service, that number has 10 unique digits: 1-833-456-4566. Dr. Allison Crawford, Chief Medical Officer of the service, says, “In a crisis, looking for a 10 digit number is a barrier — a barrier that doesn’t need to exist.” Crawford is optimistic that a 3-digit number could be achievable within the next one-to-two years, as long as there is support from multiple political parties. 

Dying for movies: Suicide highlights labour issues in Canada’s visual effects sectorCanadian Press via Kamloops This Week
November 5, 2020
This investigative article by the Canadian Press explores the issue of suicide in the visual effects and animation sector in Canada where it is common for employees have long, often unpaid, overtime hours, short-term work contracts, and sometimes, a financial penalty for breaking those contracts. That was the case for Malcolm Angell, 46, who moved to Montreal from New Zealand to work in the visual effects industry. According to Angell’s brother Ivan, Angell was made to work 80-hour weeks and was frequently humiliated by his bosses.  Angell would have quit, says Ivan, if it weren’t for a clause in his contract that required he pay $35,000 if he did so. “These are movies. Why are people dying for movies?” said Vanessa Kelly, general director of the Art Babbitt Appreciation Society. Julia Neville, with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, says that workers in the industry are often given a contract for one project at a time, and that, while much of the film industry is unionized, visual effects artists are generally not, and long work hours and unpaid overtime are common. Visual effects companies also try to underbid each other for work on projects, and “That pressure is exerted downward onto the worker. What ends up happening is there’s never enough time allotted to accomplish what you need done,” according to Neville.

Ted Leonsis has lost three friends to suicide. He doesn’t want to lose any more.Washington Post
November 5, 2020
Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals, Wizards and Mystics, is highlighting the need to have real conversations with one another during the pandemic and beyond. Leonsis says, “No one ever asks me… ‘How are you doing through all this?’ We have to talk about how we’re doing. There are issues we sweep under the table, and we’ll look back at this and say, ‘Why did we do that?’” Leonsis has lost three friends to suicide and explains that we need to do more as individuals to open up about our emotional lives. “We’re creating a world and a society where we are activating all of the issues on mental health, but we won’t talk about it. We don’t promote it. We don’t say it is okay — especially now — to be dealing with anxiety or depression… it’s the right thing to do to communicate, come to your community, tell your family, tell your friends. We are going to end up with a big, big issue if we don’t talk about it,” says Leonsis.

Reporting on suicidal behaviour and COVID-19—need for cautionThe Lancet Psychiatry
November 5, 2020
Suicide reporting in the media can influence suicide in the general population exposed to that media. Researchers write in this correspondence piece in The Lancet Psychiatry, “Sensational media coverage of the negative effects resulting from the pandemic, especially when focused on suicidal behaviour, could increase the risk of imitation and contribute to normalising suicidal behaviour as a common and acceptable way to cope with difficulties related to the crisis. Of particular concern is the impact on young people, who are more likely to be influenced by what they see and hear in the media, are disproportionately featured in news coverage of suicide, and are at increased risk of imitative suicidal behaviour.” Members of the research community also need to be mindful when reporting research findings; results should be presented in a balanced way, and predictions about ‘the potential effects of the pandemic on future suicide rates are of particular concern.’

Preventing Suicide in the Age of COVID-19Psychiatric Times
November 4, 2020
Christine Moutier, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, explains in this podcast how suicide can be prevented in a clinical setting during a global pandemic. She highlights that there are silver linings to the pandemic – the American public is more ready than ever to address and talk about their mental health and that of their loved ones.

Justin Bieber talks depression, suicidal thoughts in new documentaryTODAY
November 2, 2020
Singer Justin Bieber has opened up in a new documentary about his experience with depression, loneliness, and thoughts of suicide. “I think that there was times where I was really, really suicidal, like really like ‘Man, is this pain ever gonna go away?’ It was so consistent, the pain was so consistent. I was just suffering, so I (was) just like, ‘Man, I would rather not feel this than feel this,'” said Bieber. He also says he’s doing much better now and is encouraging others who are struggling to seek help: “I just would encourage people, ‘Hey, if you’re feeling lonely, talk about it. Say it out loud. There’s a freedom in that.”

Mental health awareness, suicide prevention program launches across CJHLSportsnet
November 2, 2020
The Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) has secured funding from the Fifth Line Foundation and the NHL foundation to launch Talk Today, a suicide prevention program, to all players in the league. Previously, Talk Today was implemented for 24 teams, but now, all 132 will take part. Talk Today will be delivered in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association. The program consists of training team members and those who work with the team in learning the warning signs for suicide, how to ask someone if they are struggling and how to connect that person with help. “These athletes are looked upon as celebrities. If they’re willing to talk about things and make people aware of what’s out there … it’s important the average person sees that and realizes it’s OK to talk, it’s OK to reach out,” said Bill Chow, President of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey league.

This Mexican Canadian artist’s father’s suicide prompted a journey of self discoveryCBC
October 30, 2020
Ode to My Father is a film by Jorge Requena Ramos, a multidisciplinary artist in Canada. The film explores Requena Ramos’ experience of losing his father to suicide and trying to understand who his father was and what he himself experienced before his death.

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