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:
Suicide prevention involves all of us, together – Canadian Journal of Psychiatry (CJP)
Apr. 5, 2017
In response to Dr. Kutcher et al’s Perspectives opinion column in CJP about gatekeeper training (training for anyone on how to identify those at risk of suicide and intervene) Mara Grunau, Executive Director of the Centre for Suicide Prevention wrote a letter to the editor of CJP, which appeared in the journal’s April edition. Grunau talks about the importance of everyone in a society working towards suicide prevention, and that includes not only medical professionals but also everyday people equipped with the knowledge and skills to respond to someone at risk. This is in addition to the other recognized best practices in suicide prevention: responsible media reporting, means restriction, research, surveillance and open and easy access to our medical system.
‘S-Town,’ America’s no. 1 podcast, sheds light on the rising suicide rate among middle-aged men – Market Watch
Apr. 8, 2017
Popular podcast S-Town is based on real life events, and takes a look at life in Woodstock, Alabama, a small blue-collar Southern town, where a 49-year-old resident died by suicide. The podcast follows the impact that suicide had on the town’s other residents and on the deceased person’s family members.
S-Town, 13 Reasons Why, and making art out of self-destruction – The Atlantic
Apr. 7, 2017
This article examines two recent portrayals of suicide in popular culture: the podcast S-Town, which follows the real-life story of town after the suicide of one of its residents, John McLemore, as well as the TV adaptation of the fictional youth novel 13 Reasons Why, which explains the 13 reasons a young girl decided to kill herself. According to the article, S-Town makes no attempt to explain why McLemore killed himself, or to understand why middle-aged men kill themselves more than any other demographic. Despite missing an opportunity to inform and educate, S-Town does follow media guidelines and does not go into detail about the suicide. This is unlike 13 Reasons Why, which portrays the death of the main character very graphically. The graphic portrayal of a suicide as well as a suggestion of means can possibly incite contagion and trigger those already at risk. Even worse, 13 Reasons Why is targeted towards youth, a demographic that is at higher risk for contagion than others.
Scandinavia’s Sami struggle with suicide, worsened by climate change – Reuters
Apr. 7, 2017
Scandinavia’s Indigenous Sami people, like other Indigenous people and especially those in the Arctic, experience high rates of suicide. Climate change has put further pressure on the Sami people, as their tradition of reindeer herding is becoming threatened; rising temperatures have decreased the herd’s food supply, causing more deaths of young and weak reindeer. This also financially impacts the Sami, and has created a feeling of pessimism in the younger generation. “You have the weight of the heritage that you are carrying after your parents and grandparents,” said Ida Ophaug, 26. “Many people feel the pressure of that.”
Is Pokemon Go helping stop suicide at hotspot in Japan? – BBC
Apr. 6, 2017
The cliffs in Tojinbo, Japan draw tourists for their beautiful views of the Japan Sea, but they also draw people struggling with suicide ideation, and have sadly become a suicide hotspot in the region. 14 people died there in 2016 and 12 in 2015, but in 2017, there have not yet been any deaths. Yukio Shige is a retired policeman who patrolled the cliffs in an effort to stop those who were thinking of suicide before they died, and he thinks that Pokemon Go has a role to play. The popular virtual reality game has made the cliffs a spot where people can “catch” rare types of Pokemon, and Shige thinks this has had an effect. However, Vicki Skorji who is the director of Tell Lifeline, a crisis line, says that there were “probably a number of factors at play,” but doesn’t discount the impacts Pokemon go may have had. Skorji also points out that Japan has seen a decline in suicides all over the country, and not just in this one region.
Mental health clinic for youth first of its kind in Alberta – CBC
Apr. 6, 2017
The Bill Rees YMCA in downtown Edmonton is now home to a mental health clinic for youth ages 11 to 25. The clinic’s staff includes three psychiatrists and two mental health therapists. The clinic is the 12th of its kind in the country, but the first to be opened in Alberta.
UBC president Santa Ono opens up about his struggle with mental health – Metro
Apr. 4, 2017
UBC’s president Santa Ono spoke out about his experiences with suicide and mental illness at the Healthy Minds: Healthy Campuses Summit last week. Ono first attempted suicide when he was just 15 years old, then later as a PhD student at McGill University. “Finally, I was seen by individuals who diagnosed me properly and through a period of about a year and a half, I had the appropriate medical support, psychological support,” he said. Ono acknowledged that often students and faculty members don’t feel comfortable opening up about their mental health issues – but that needs to change. “This is a pervasive problem. What can institutions do? Reform is needed … we need to recognize that none of us should be ashamed for the struggles we are dealing with.”
Cancer patients have 55% greater risk of suicide, study finds – Guardian
Apr. 3, 2017
Previous studies have already shown that people being treated for cancer have higher suicide rates than those in the general population, and new research has been able to quantify the actual amount of increased risk, but researchers say the data is “extremely preliminary.” They pooled data from 15 studies, and found that people with cancer have a 55% higher suicide rate compared to those who do not have cancer, but no increased risk of suicide attempts or thoughts was found.
We can reduce the Indigenous suicide rate through connection to culture – Guardian
Apr. 3, 2017
Joe Williams, a professional rugby player in Australia talks about his struggles with suicidal thoughts and how a connection to his Indigenous culture helped him recover from his suicidality. “I believe there is something in this for all of us, no matter race or religion. Within this connection to culture I see a way to end the horrific suicide rate for not only our people, but all people. The answer is in connection. Whether you connect to the land, culture, family or friends – connection keeps us alive” said Williams.
Families with suicidal children plead for overhaul of Manitoba’s mental health system – CBC
Apr. 3, 2017
Parents of children waiting to access mental health support for their suicidal thoughts are calling on the government to overhaul the mental health system. In a discussion at the Manitoba Legislature last week, families expressed concerns about extremely long wait times, insensitive hospital staff, and the general lack of supports available. One mother said the wait time for her son to be accepted into Manitoba’s only supervised psychiatric residence was 5 to 10 years. In northern Manitoba, it is even harder to find proper mental health supports. MLA Judy Klassen said that First Nations youth and adults in northern and remote communities are often flown in to larger communities to receive help for their suicidal thoughts, and are discharged shortly after.
Wounded healers – National Post
Mar. 30, 2017
Doctors have a suicide rate almost double that of the general population. Dr. John Bradford, who suffered from PTSD, talks about his own suicide attempt, “Everybody saw me as this tough forensic guy, that nothing would faze me. Well, that was bullshit, right? More than that, it nearly was the end of me.” Dr. Michael Myers, past president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, said that stigma is a factor in the medical world, “We’ve done pretty well with the general public in terms of reducing the stigma associated with going for help, but we still have so far to go in the house of medicine.”
Perspective: Kathryn – The New England Journal of Medicine
Mar. 23, 2017
In this column, Dr. David Muller, a dean for medical education, recounts his experience with a medical student dying by suicide on campus. He talks about efforts to prevent contagion, and the intense emotional reactions from students. Muller also describes how the student and faculty community became closer after the tragedy, and how he struggled with trying to figure out what should be done to prevent further suicides. Muller realized that while the school can do some things, he believed the root cause of suicide could not only be addressed by the school, but instead involved everyone, as a society. He thought the root cause to be: “A culture of performance and achievement that for most of our students begins in middle school and relentlessly intensifies for the remainder of their adult lives… Students bravely meet these challenges head-on while we continue to blindly ratchet up our expectations… All of us will have to band together if we want to change this culture.”