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:

You Can Help the Agencies Battling Mental Health Challenges and AddictionsCalgary Herald
December 4, 2020
Centre for Suicide Prevention (CSP) has been listed as one of the charities benefiting from the Calgary Herald’s 30th annual Christmas Fund, which encourages people to donate to any one of the 75 non-profit organizations who have been a part of the fund over the past 30 years. “We run more than 400 workshops a year and we train thousands of people,” said Mara Grunau, executive director at CSP. “We have on hand the largest English-language selection of suicide material in the world.” CSP has moved some training sessions online during the pandemic, and Grunau says, “It has opened up new opportunities to reach people. Suicide is not inevitable. People want the pain to end, not necessarily to die — if we can offer them help, they will take the help.”

One in 10 Canadians say they’ve contemplated suicide since the pandemic beganThe Star
December 7, 2020
Last week, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and UBC released data from a survey of 3,000 Canadians who were asked about their mental health between Sept. 14 – 21, 2020. This was their second survey during the pandemic, the first being in May, and the results of this survey have shown that people are being more affected in the second wave, especially those belonging to certain sub-populations like LGBTQ2S+ people, Indigenous people, people with pre-existing mental health conditions, and people who are unemployed. 6% of respondents to the May survey said they experienced recent thoughts of suicide, while in September’s survey, 10% of respondents reported recent thoughts of suicide. CMHA and UBC hope that the survey results will help inform policy changes to the mental health system, “I think there’s some hope here that we can use these types of data to try and rebuild a mental health system that’s more effective and more aligned with what people need,” said Dr. Emily Jenkins, lead researcher and an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Nursing.

‘Dealing with a lot:’ Suicide crisis calls mount during COVID-19 pandemic
December 3, 2020
Distress Centre Calgary is reporting an increase in suicide-related calls during the pandemic. October 2020 saw an increase of 66% in calls, texts, and chat messages about suicide when compared to October 2019. Crisis line workers are also reporting that, in the second wave of COVID-19, the intensity of calls has gone up, “We’re seeing it more back-to-back rather than the odd one here and there that is more intense,” says Hannah Storrs, the Distress Centre Calgary’s crisis team lead. “People are dealing with a lot right now. They’re dealing with isolation. They’re dealing with mental health issues. They’re dealing with financial issues on top of being just scared of what can happen in the world.”

Government funds suicide-prevention programs for Indigenous youth, post-secondary studentsTimes Colonist
December 3, 2020
The BC government has put $2.3 million towards mental health supports and suicide prevention programming for First Nations and Métis young people in the province. “Expanding the reach of suicide-prevention programs for students and Indigenous youth gets more young people access to the tools, skills and community supports they need to cope in challenging times,” said BC Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson.

How to talk to loved ones about their mental healthThe Washington Post
December 1, 2020
During the pandemic and throughout the holiday season, we can open up conversations about mental health and keep an eye on those around us who may be struggling. “There’s a difference between being alone and feeling alone,” said John Draper, executive director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. “Feeling alone is feeling like nobody cares about you, nobody values you, so it’s really important now for us to let people who we care about or we’re worried about know how much we care about them and value them.” Scheduling regular calls, specifically video calls, with loved ones is a good way to check in on them and ensure they’re not exhibiting any significant change in behaviour that may be a sign they’re struggling. Normalizing conversations about mental health is another good way to check in. We can do this by talking about the state of our own mental health and asking loved ones how they’re doing, and really listening.  If you’re worried about someone, don’t hesitate to ask them if they’re thinking about suicide. If they say yes, ensure you connect them with the crisis centre or someone who can help, and stay connected with them and follow-up.

Death shocks U of T student body, prompts calls for change to mental health programmingGlobalnews.ca
December 1, 2020
*Trigger warning* On November 2, 2020, Keshav Mayya, a U of T student, died by suicide. Now the student body is calling on the university to ensure students have proper access to mental health supports, which has been an ongoing issue according to Muntaka Ahmed, U of T’s Student Union president. “The fact that it is such a universal experience, it’s very concerning and it sort of raised students voices up again and I was happy to see that. Talking to somebody does go a long way, but it doesn’t solve those inherent problems that are being perpetuated by the academic and the social culture at U of T,” said Ahmed. U of T has extended the winter break for students. “We recognize that the past several months have been a challenging time for many students and we hope that this extended break provides an opportunity for rest and recuperation,” writes Micah Stickel, U of T’s vice-provost, students.

In a holiday season unlike any other, avoid unfounded claims about suicideEurekAlert! Science News
December 1, 2020
A new analysis released by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found that last year almost 50% of news stories published in the US about the holidays and suicide contained misinformation, stating that suicide increases over the holidays, which is not the case. “News stories must always be careful not to sensationalize suicide,” said APPC Research Director Dan Romer. “Creating the false impression that suicide is more likely than it is can have adverse consequences for already-vulnerable individuals. This potential danger is even more critical this year, when COVID-19 has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths in the United States alone.”

New editions of journalist-to-journalist mental health reporting guides take suicide recommendations to a new levelCision
November 30, 2020
The Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma has released the third edition of Mindset: Reporting on Mental Health, with an expanded chapter about suicide reporting. The expanded chapter emphasizes the need for context around any story about suicide, and “seeks to provide a foundation from which journalists can more confidently weigh possible benefits and risks” of suicide reporting. The Mindset guidelines are supported in part by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, using funds provided by Health Canada, and by CBC News as official media partner. Cliff Lonsdale of the Forum on said of the new edition, “What we’ve seen in recent years has been the flourishing of incisive, enterprising and award-winning longer-form journalism that has taken the discussion of suicide much deeper, to considerable public benefit. But the journalists doing that work often had little relevant guidance to help them choose ethical approaches for the different kinds of stories they were telling. Drawing on their experience, and consulting leading figures in the realm of suicide prevention, we’ve come up with recommendations to encourage this kind of work, without negating the value of guidance offered by specialists with various suicide-prevention perspectives.”

A three-digit mental health crisis hotline? This Ontario teen is pushing for it. Politicians are starting to listenThe Star
November 30, 2020
Madi Muggridge, 19, is advocating for a three-digit national suicide hotline in Canada, and has collected almost 30,000 signatures on her petition, which launched in July of this year. Muggridge experienced thoughts of suicide at age 13, and reached out to a chat-based crisis service. “I sat there for three hours with the (screen) in front of me, and no one ever got on. It really disappointed me, and I felt more alone than when I even started trying to contact them,” said Muggridge. Todd Doherty, MP for Cariboo-Prince George, began the three-digit crisis line discussion in the House of Commons when he tabled a motion in October 2020 calling for the creation of the line.

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