News Archive: July – September 2017


July, 2017


Internet searches on suicide went up after ‘13 Reasons Why’ released by Netflix

In the season finale of the popular Netflix TV series “13 Reasons Why,” 17-year-old student Hannah Baker kills herself in a prolonged three-minute scene.

Even though the entire story, much of it told through flashbacks, has been leading up to this moment, and viewers already know Hannah is dead, the graphic sequence is a torment to watch. New research suggests that the show — perhaps this very scene — could have triggered suicidal thoughts in its viewers, many of whom are young people.

The 13-episode series, which was released all at once, chronicles 13 tapes that Hannah sends to those she blames for her actions. The series has captured the imagination of kids across the country. In April, it set a record for the most-tweeted-about show in 2017, when it was mentioned more than 11 million times within three weeks of its March 31 launch.

The Washington Post, July 31, 2017 


The Ketamine Breakthrough for Suicidal Children

Initial research finds fast, dramatic benefits for a vulnerable population

Fourteen-year-old Nicole, whose name I changed for her privacy, told her mother every day for years that she wanted to end her own life. Between suicide attempts were more psychiatric hospital visits than she or her mother could count. She refused to get out of bed, shower, or go to school, missing sixty school days in a single year. In one visit with her therapist, she admitted to praying every night that she would not wake up the next morning. After countless psychiatrists and psychotherapists were unable to improve her depression, her mother converted a bathroom cabinet into a locked safe, containing all of the sharp objects and pills in the house. Her parents were certain it was only a matter of time until Nicole killed herself.

Today, a now seventeen-year-old Nicole greets me with a big smile. Her blonde hair is pulled back into a ponytail to reveal her bright blue eyes. She tells me she hasn’t missed a day of school and is preparing for college. Blushing, she lets me know that her first date is coming up, a prom date to be precise. For the first time in years, she is happy and wants to live.

What happened to cause this dramatic change? In December, Nicole started infusions of a psychedelic drug called ketamine. Though she had failed to respond to endless medication trials for her depression (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, mirtazapine, topiramate, antipsychotics, and lithium to name just a few), ketamine cleared her depression within hours. The effect lasts about two weeks before she needs a new infusion.

Scientific American, July 18, 2017


The Suicide Epidemic: Social, Economic or Both?

Ours is a nation in despair. U.S. suicide rates have surged to a 30-year high, and it’s not just among struggling middle-aged whites. Suicides by girls age 10 to 14 have spiked over the last 18 years. And there’s been a shocking surge in children 17 or under dying from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

Since 1999, suicide rates have risen in every age group except the elderly, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Among women 45 to 64 it jumped an astounding 63 percent. For men that age, it was up 43 percent.

In their report on rising death rates among middle-aged white Americans, Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton referred to “deaths of despair” – early deaths caused by drugs and alcohol, as well as by suicide. They cited deteriorating job prospects and a decline in stable relationships as possible factors.

Real Clear Politics, July 18, 2017


America sees alarming spike in middle school suicide rate

The rate of middle school suicide doubled between 2007 and 2014 in the United States for a variety of reasons, including the use of social media for bullying.

America is experiencing a striking rise in suicide among middle school students.

The suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds doubled between 2007 and 2014, for the first time surpassing the death rate in that age group from car crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2014 alone, 425 middle schoolers nationwide took their own lives.

“It’s alarming. We’re even getting cases involving 8- and 9-year olds,” said Clark Flatt, who started the Jason Foundation in Tennessee 20 years ago to help educate teachers about teen suicide after his 16-year-old son took his own life. “It’s scary. This isn’t an emerging problem – it’s here.”

Naples Daily News, July 14, 2017 


Texas Teen May Be Victim in ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ That Encourages Suicide

Isaiah Gonzalez, 15, found hanging from his closet after an apparent suicide, as allegedly instructed by macabre online game

A 15-year-old high school student is quite possibly the latest victim of a macabre online game called the “Blue Whale Challenge” after he was found hanging in his bedroom closet, his cell phone propped up to record his death.

Isaiah Gonzalez’s family told San Antonio TV station WOAI that they believe Gonzalez’s death was the final task in a 50-day Internet challenge that encouraged participants – primarily teens and young adults – to complete a number of daily tasks ranging from watching horror films to self-mutilation. The challenge also allegedly requires participants to take photos of themselves posing in dangerous positions, such as on the edge of a roof or on train tracks.

Isaiah’s father, Jorge Gonzalez, told WOAI that the family is certain the teen was involved with the challenge because he had sent his friends pictures of the completed tasks. “It talks about satanic stuff and stuff like that and my son was never into that,” he said.

Rolling Stone, July 12, 2017


As teen suicide rates go up, a psychiatrist offers parents warning signs and prevention tips

Famously impulsive teens are known for bad decisions and poor risk assessment skills — jumping down too many stairs on a skateboard, blowing off homework. But during this sometimes-tumultuous stage in life, Dr. Bruce Lovelace of St. Thomas Community Health Center says there’s something else parents should be aware of. Though it’s often hard to think about, troubled young people are at risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and hospitalizations for kids thinking about suicide are on the rise. 

At a May Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, a new study revealed that the percentage of children and teens hospitalized for suicidal thoughts between 2008 and 2015 had doubled since the last period studied. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention data cites suicide as the second-leading cause of death nationally for people between the ages of 10 and 24; rates in particular are on the rise among girls ages 10-14.

Gambit–New Orleans, July 11, 2017


What parents need to know about Blue Whale ‘suicide dare’ game and Texas teen’s death

Apparently hidden in the creepiest corners of the internet is an “obstacle course” of 50 daily tasks that climaxes with a suggestion that the participant commit suicide on the last day of the competition.

While no one seems to have found much tangible evidence of the so-called Blue Whale Challenge, two families in the U.S. — including one in San Antonio — have said this week that their teens killed themselves because of their participation.

According to his father, Jorge Gonzalez, 15-year-old Isaiah was found hanging from his closet Saturday, with a cell phone propped nearby, broadcasting to social media.

Dallas Evening News, July 11, 2017


In Northwest Arctic, a powerful tool in combating suicide: Training youths to help each other

Last month, the University of Alaska Fairbanks announced a $4.25 million initiative to tackle youth suicide in Alaska Native communities, with a focus on resilience and solutions.

But one program in the Northwest Arctic Borough School District has focused on this type of community-based prevention since its start in 2008, and it now has been showing results.

Promoting peer-to-peer mentoring, the school district’s Youth Leaders Program engages students and their communities, challenging them to come up with solutions to bullying, isolation and suicidal tendencies.

In the years since the program’s start, the school district has seen a dramatic drop in student suicides. According to Michelle Woods, the program coordinator until she retired two years ago, nine students died by suicide in 2007. By 2009, it was five.

Alaska Dispatch News, July 10, 2017


Blue Whale Challenge Encourages Kids to Commit Suicide

The Blue Whale Challenge is a game that some kids in the country are being encouraged to play. The challenge targets preteens and teens. Earlier reports indicated that the challenge began by way of a YouTube video in which an anonymous instructor begins giving assignments. In total, there are 50 assignments that become increasingly more serious over time. The tasks include things like self-harm and when the participant reaches the 50th task, they are told to kill themselves.

“Over the course of 50 days, an anonymous administrator assigns kids self-harm tasks. The challenges may start by asking kids to watch a scary movie and then grow increasingly dangerous to include acts like cutting. On the 50th day, the participant is supposed to commit suicide. The game can reach kids through social-media channels like Instagram, SnapChat, YouTube and texting,” USA reports.

Heavy, July 8, 2017


August, 2017


The story behind Logic’s powerful suicide prevention anthem 

At the VMAs on Sunday night, rapper Logic shared the stage with suicide attempt survivors as he offered an emotional performance of his anthem “1-800-273-8255,” named after the suicide prevention hotline.

The song, which features Alessia Cara and Khalid, begins from the perspective of someone calling the number — known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — and confessing that they “don’t want to be alive.”

Ultimately, the song delivers a message of hope — the second verse features the lyrics “You don’t gotta die, I want you to be alive,” told from the perspective of the person offering emotional support at the other end of the line. 

The song’s final lyrics find the caller determined to keep fighting: “The lane I travel feels alone / but I’m moving ’til my legs give out / and I see my tears melt in the snow / but I don’t wanna cry / I don’t wanna cry anymore / I wanna feel alive / I don’t even wanna die anymore.” ‘1-800-273-8255’

The Washington Post, August 28, 2017


After A Suicide, Sibling Survivors Are Often Overlooked

When Taylor Porco’s brother, Jordan, died by suicide during his freshman year of college in February 2011, people told her to be strong for her parents, who were incapacitated by their grief. Hardly anyone seemed to notice that Porco, only 14 at the time, was suffering and suicidal.

“I was really depressed and in such extreme pain. Nothing, literally, mattered to me after he died. All I wanted was my brother back. I never loved someone as much as I loved him,” she says.

Porco’s experience is hardly unique. Approximately 25,000 people each year become sibling survivors of suicide, according to the support group, Sibling Survivors of Suicide Loss. Those who lose a sibling to suicide at any age can experience anger, complicated grief reactions, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and thoughts of taking their own lives.

Shots/Health News from NPR, August 25, 2017


Quad-City documentary focuses on teen suicide, will be broadcast on TV

Mickle Communications of Davenport has created a prime-time special “If You Only Knew: The Journey Through Teen Depression and Suicide.”

“If You Only Knew” features families who have lost children to suicide, as well as a young woman who attempted suicide several times as a teenager then later found the help she needed. The original documentary first aired on WQPT in March 2016. It was nominated for a Mid-America Emmy, and is available on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon (free with Amazon Prime).

Quad City Times, August 20, 2017


Guns Play Oversize Role in Rural Suicides

Suicide rates are higher in rural counties, according to a new study, and the reason is firearm use by men.

The report, in the American Journal of Public Health, used data on 6,196 suicides of Maryland residents over age 15. They found that the rate of firearm suicides was 66 percent higher in the most thinly populated counties than in metropolitan areas with populations greater than a million. Non-firearm suicide rates in rural and urban counties were roughly the same.

The New York Times, August 17, 2017


Preventing Teen Suicide: What the Evidence Shows

Rates of teen suicide continue to rise, federal health officials reported this month, with rates for girls higher than at any point in the last 40 years. A rational response would be to engage in evidence-based measures to try to reverse this course. Too often, we assume that there’s nothing we can do.

Sometimes, we even make things worse.

Suicide rates were even higher in the 1990s. But from 2007 to 2015 rates rose from 10.8 to 14.2 per 100,000 male teenagers and from 2.4 to 5.1 per 100,000 female teenagers. In 2011, for the first time in more than 20 years, more teenagers died from suicide than homicide.

But these trends have been known for years. Our response to them hasn’t adequately acknowledged their progression.

The New York Times, August 17, 2017


Precision Medicine for Preventing Suicide

Researchers developed personalized blood tests for different subtypes of suicidality that they have newly identified and for different psychiatric high-risk groups. 

A research team led by scientists at the Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine say they have created a novel method for diagnosing suicide risk by developing blood tests that work in everyone as well as more personalized blood tests for different subtypes of suicidality and high-risk groups.

The researchers also demonstrated how two apps—one based on a suicide-risk checklist and the other on a scale for measuring feelings of anxiety and depression—work along with the blood tests to increase the precision of tests and to propose potential lifestyle, psychotherapeutic, and other interventions. The team also noted that they were able to identify a series of medications and natural substances that could be developed for preventing suicide.

Their study (“Precision Medicine for Suicidality: From Universality to Subtypes and Personalization”) is published in  Molecular Psychiatry.

We sought to investigate whether blood gene expression biomarkers for suicide (that is, a ‘liquid biopsy’ approach) can be identified that are more universal in nature, working across psychiatric diagnoses and genders, using larger cohorts than in previous studies. Such markers may reflect and/or be a proxy for the core biology of suicide. We were successful in this endeavor, using a comprehensive stepwise approach, leading to a wealth of findings,” write the investigators.

GEN, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, August 15, 2017


Suicides under age 13: One every 5 days

One day after school in January, 8-year-old Gabriel Taye returned to his Cincinnati home and hanged himself with a necktie, his family’s attorney says.

His mother, Cornelia Reynolds, found his body that afternoon in his bedroom. His family sued his school district last week, alleging that he’d been bullied and that the school didn’t inform his relatives.

“Gabriel was a shining light to everyone who knew and loved him,” his mother said in prepared statement released to the news media. “We miss him desperately and suffer every day.”

Suicides among US children under 13 are rare, but perhaps more frequent than you think. And 8 is hardly the youngest.

From 1999 through 2015, 1,309 children ages 5 to 12 committed suicide in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Crossroads Today, ABC News, August 14, 2017


Teen suicide: The ones they left behind

The memories of teenagers who died by suicide are closely guarded by those left behind.

The smiles and laughter, the shared experiences, the first days at school and the last hours spent together are beacons for families of children whose lives were cut short after ongoing struggles with mental illnesses including depression, anxiety or eating disorders.

There’s Heidi Bucklin, who died at 18, a competitive athlete whose seriousness on the field afterward melted into goofy grins with her friends.

There’s Zayne Shomler, who died at 17. He loved little things — watching ants march back to their colony, his turtle and the tiny stuffed lamb he kept close even until his death.

There’s Heather Brooker-Higgins, who died at 13. She loved to learn so much, she would spend hours studying Spanish on her school-issued tablet.

These are some of the teenagers who have died by suicide in Clark County, as long ago as six years and as recently as two months. It’s a constant and apparently escalating problem.

The Columbian, August 13, 2017


Girl Talk: Help is always available for those with thoughts of suicide

Anyone who has ever graced a public bathroom knows that after you lock the door and look around at the stall around you, chances are you are likely to encounter a vast array of graffiti.

Some classics still remain as they had in generations before us: For a good time call some random number; this person loves that person forever; and another person thinks someone else is a variety of expletives.

Sometimes there are quotes. The most profound bathroom quote I ever read was “Suicide doesn’t take away your pain; it just gives it to someone else.” I can say without a shadow of a doubt, this quote has saved my life.

According to USA Today, there is a suicide every 13 minutes in the United States. Behind every tragic loss there is a story. As someone who has openly coped with depression disorders my entire life, this is my story.

There is not a day that goes by in my life where I can say the thought isn’t there. I think with most people who have had a history with depression and suicide, they can honestly admit this. If something goes wrong, you automatically think about it. It’s not something I would act on, just a thought. If I am going to be honest about my story, I need to tell you my whole story.

Weekender, August 10, 2017


Suicide Prevention: What To Do If You Think Someone Needs Help

According to the Vermont Department of Mental Health, the suicide rate in Vermont has increased over the past 10 years. In 2014, according to the department’s data, there were more than 17 suicides per 100,000 Vermonters. The New York Times reported that the national average that year was 13 suicides per 100,000 people.

JoEllen Tarallo is the director of the Vermont Suicide Prevention Center. She says that suicide can be reduced if more people know how to support friends and family members. She offered some advice for anyone who is concerned that someone they know might be suicidal.

Vermont Public Radio, August 7, 2017


Behind the suicide of a teen track star

“What Made Maddy Run?” 

That’s the title question of a new book about a suburban New Jersey teen and track star, Madison Holleran, who committed suicide in 2014 during her freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania. The real question, though, is: What made Maddy stop?

Depression is a difficult problem to diagnose and treat, and there are probably many factors that led to this tragedy. But it is striking that, despite Maddy’s strong social network, as well as her success both academically and athletically, she felt a crushing pressure, one that’s becoming more and more common — for teenage girls, especially.

With the help of Maddy’s family, friends and teammates, who were shocked and baffled by this tragedy, espnW columnist Kate Fagan tries to recreate the last several months of her life not only through interviews with those who knew her but also by looking through all of her text messages, emails and social media posts.

New York Post, August 7, 2017


Teens are more depressed and isolated than ever because of smartphones, researcher claims

Jean Twenge, a professor at San Diego State, argues in The Atlantic this week that smartphones may be destroying a generation of teens

Today’s teens go out less, date less, and feel more depressed and suicidal, according to Twenge’s data. There’s a strong link between the amount of time they spend looking at screens and how sad they feel.

Teenagers today are more depressed, have higher rates of suicide, and hang out with friends less often than teens in earlier eras, according to one researcher, who has blamed the rise of smartphones for the problem.

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State, wrote in The Atlantic this week that she’s noticed a number of stark behavioral changes in teens since smartphones became popular. She argued that the rates of change are the sharpest she’s seen in researching data from the 1930s onward.

Among her findings:

  • Teens go out a lot less with friends and on fewer dates.
  • They are much less interested in driving.
  • They report feeling lonely a lot more often.
  • Rates of depression and suicide have “skyrocketed” since 2011.

The more time they spend looking at screens, the more depressed they say they feel – “There’s not a single exception” among any age group, Twenge writes.

CNBC, August 5, 2017


Out of the darkness: Youth, officials open up about suicide

Zach Ricker was into sports, especially basketball, in high school. He was a good student, getting A’s and B’s. Corinne Johnson, a classmate of Ricker’s, characterized him as a nice, almost shy guy. He didn’t talk much, she said, and when he did, you almost always had to ask him, “What?”

Johnson was also active in sports. She played soccer and was a good student. She was outspoken in class and challenged her teachers with questions. She even received a student of the month award for standing up for a bullied peer. She worked to help support herself because she was raised by a single mother and had two siblings.

Ricker and Johnson both seemed like normal, happy teenagers.

No one knew they both wanted to kill themselves. Their loved ones didn’t know they were both suffering from clinical depression and anxiety.

Since the beginning of 2012, there have been 33 suicides involving people between the ages of 13 and 25, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Statistics. That includes 15 suicides in Allen County, eight in Putnam County, six in Auglaize County and four in Van Wert County.

The Lima News, August 3, 2017 


Suicide rate hit 40-year peak among older teen girls

The suicide rate among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 reached an all-time high in 2015 for the 40-year period beginning in 1975, according to new data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

In the shorter term, the suicide rate for those girls doubled between 2007 and 2015, the research indicates.

By comparison, the 2015 suicide rate for boys in this age group was lower than in the peak years of the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s.

FOX8, August 3, 2017


A father lost his son. Now he wants to convince society that no suicide is inevitable

Steve Mallen thinks the signs first started to show when his son stopped playing the piano. Edward, then 18, was a gifted musician and had long since passed his Grade 8 exams. Playing had been a passion for most of his life. But as adulthood beckoned, the boy had never been busier. He had won a place to read geography at the University of Cambridge and was revising hard for his A levels. At his school, Edward was head boy and popular among pupils and teachers. His younger brother and sister idolized him.

“We didn’t attach any particular significance to it,” says Mallen of what he saw as merely a musical pause. “I think we just thought, ‘Well, the poor lad’s been at the piano for years and years. He’s so busy…’ But these are the small things – the ripples in the fabric of normal life – that you don’t necessarily notice but which, as I know now, can be very significant.”

Three months after Edward stopped playing, and just two weeks after he handed in an English essay his teacher would later describe as among the best he had read, police knocked at the door of the family home in Meldreth, a village ten miles south of Cambridge. Steve Mallen was at home, alone. “You become painfully aware that something appalling has happened,” he recalls. “You go through the description, they offer commiserations and a booklet, and then they leave. And that’s it. Suddenly you are staring into the most appalling abyss you can ever imagine.”

Quartz, August 2, 2017


Mother of Bullied Girl Who Died by Suicide: Mallory ‘Had a Target on Her Back’

Mallory was an accomplished cheerleader and gymnast who family and friends say was well-liked and sociable

The family of a 12-year-old New Jersey girl who took her own life in June is planning to sue the school district she attended, saying she was relentlessly bullied for months before a “preventable tragedy.” 

The family announced Tuesday in Roseland, alongside with their attorney, that they’re suing the Rockaway Township school district because they say it did nothing to stop months of bullying that led to Mallory Grossman’s suicide. 

NBC, August 1, 2017


East Helena elementary students begin game aimed at suicide prevention

“We’ve had too many suicides in East Helena of our kids. We believe that something can make a difference for kids,” Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer said. “This is a statistically proven program.”

Elementary students in East Helena will be part of an early education game to prevent suicide by reducing behavioral problems and mental health issues.

Blue Cross Blue Shield and American Chemet provided almost $17,000 in grant funding to train Kindergarten through third grade teachers on the PAXIS Institute Good Behavior Game last month. Teachers in Kindergarten through third grade will implement the program with a goal to develop coping skills for social, emotional and behavioral challenges that will last a lifetime.

In 2014, Montana had the highest rate of suicide in the nation and has been among the top five states for 40 years, according to a report by the Montana Suicide Mortality Review Team.

Helena Independent Record, August 1, 2017