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:

Here’s Why Experts Think Suicides Dropped During The PandemicBuzzFeed News
November 12, 2021
Suicide rates in the US dropped for the second year in a row in 2020, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Rates did not decrease for all groups, however. White people, women, and middle-aged and older adults saw a decline in suicides while rates stayed the same or increased among Black, Latinx and Indigenous men. “We must remain vigilant, and work to address suicide in populations disproportionately impacted,” said Deb Stone, a lead behavioral scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Research’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Rajeev Ramchand, a senior adviser on epidemiology and suicide prevention at the National Institute of Mental Health, speculates that suicides decreased among some groups because “it wasn’t as bad to feel socially isolated” when everyone else was having the same experience and that social programs and economic support could have mitigated possible negative effects of job loss. Authors of a study finding similar declines in 21 different countries said, “For some people, everyday stresses might have been reduced during stay-at-home periods, and for others, the collective feeling of ‘we’re all in this together’ might have been beneficial.”

How to Recognize Suicide Warning Signs amid the National Children’s Mental Health EmergencyPeople
November 12, 2021
Last month, pediatric experts in the US declared a state of emergency in children’s mental health. Dr. Jonathan Goldfinger, a pediatrician and CEO of non-profit Didi Hirsch says, “We are seeing suicide attempts and losses at alarming, alarming rates across the United States. Now is the time to really talk about it with our loved ones and ensure that mental health care is available to all those who need it.” To prevent suicide in children, Goldfinger says, “Every single parent should be having some form of a conversation with their child about how they’re feeling, how they’re doing, and check in frequently.”

Talk to Your Child About Suicide – An Age-By-Age Guide For ParentsUniversity of Utah Health
November 12, 2021
This article provides a succinct and helpful guide for parents in talking to their children about suicide, suggesting age-appropriate language. “Unfortunately, children having suicidal thoughts or knowing about suicide is more common than you may think,” says Kristin Francis, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Huntsman Mental Health Institute. “We have seen children as young as six or seven reporting suicidal thoughts… Given that roughly half of all lifetime mental health disorders start by mid-teens, parents need to have a plan for how to talk to their children about suicide as soon as it is appropriate.” Some guidelines include: keeping language and concepts very simple for children under 7, while young people 11-14 can handle more detail like information about warning signs. This article also provides some warning signs for parents to look out for.

‘Daddy isn’t coming back’: surviving my partner’s suicide  – Financial Times
November 11, 2021
Manuela Saragosa, who lost partner Steve to suicide in 2013, talks about her family’s journey leading up to and following his death. Steve experienced schizoaffective disorder, which, according to Saragosa, made it more difficult for him to talk to others about his struggles and seek help. Saragosa says, “The stigma weighed on him, and he did his best to hide the worst of his illness. Even when the volume was turned up, he would continue to soldier on into work… returning home at the end of the day with his shoulders bunched up near his ears, his eyes flitting left and right, unable to speak. Then he would escape into the garden, pacing furiously and chain-smoking.”

Family Speaks Out After ‘Happy’ 10-Year-Old Daughter Dies by Suicide Following Reports of BullyingPeople
November 11, 2021
Isabella Tichenor, 10, died by suicide recently, and her family says her school should have done more to prevent the bullying that she experienced. Tichenor was Black and had autism, and Tichenor’s mother, Brittany Tichenor-Cox, said she had told her about the bullying she experienced from other students and that she thought her teacher didn’t like her because she didn’t interact with her the same way she did with others. “As any parent would, we reported this abuse to her teachers, the school administration, and the district administration,” said Tichenor-Cox. “Nothing. Nothing was done to protect Izzy. Children did not have their behavior corrected so the torment of this child continued day after day.” Grandmother Paulette Harris said, “We are going to be Izzy’s voice. We are going to ring this bell as loud as we can because we are going to stop this bullying. That little girl had spark, that little girl had hopes and dreams.”

We studied suicide notes to learn about the language of despair – and we’re training AI chatbots to do the sameThe Conversation
November 11, 2021
**Content warning** Two researchers explain their work in this article – building chatbots for a range of uses in health care, including suicide prevention. They examined over 100 suicide notes and found four language patterns relevant to suicide prevention: negative sentiment, constrictive thinking, idioms and logical fallacies. According to the researchers, chatbots can easily be programmed to identify negative sentiments and constrictive language, “Although this technology still requires further research and development, it provides machines a necessary — albeit primitive — understanding of how words can relate to complex real-world scenarios… And machines will need this capability if they are to ultimately address sensitive human affairs — first by detecting warning signs, and then delivering the appropriate response.”

Our son died by suicide. This is why we want mental health resources in schools.GMA
November 10, 2021
Chad Harrell, 17, died by suicide in 2017. His parents are now advocating for suicide prevention in schools. “The school districts around Kansas City had really lost multiple kids and they were starting to think what they could do,” said mother Sylvia Harrell. “The assistant superintendent at that time told us that Chad’s death scared him because he thought, ‘How are we going to help these kids that are flying underneath the radar as needing help?'” The Harrell’s launched the Keep the Spark Alive Foundation, which funds and promotes suicide prevention programs in local schools.

Machine Learning Uses Predictive Analytics For Suicide PreventionHealth IT Analytics
November 8, 2021
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have developed a machine-learning algorithm using predictive analytics to recognize young people who are experiencing thoughts of suicide. The research team analyzed data from over 150,000 high school students in Utah and found they were able to predict with 91% accuracy whether or not students were thinking about suicide. Study authors wrote, “We found that factors that strongly influence the model include bullying and harassment, as expected, but also aspects of their family life, such as being in a family with yelling and/or serious arguments. We hope that this study can provide insight to inform early prevention efforts.”

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