News Archive: October, November, December 2017

December, 2017

Bullied teen killed herself after school expelled her instead of helping her, lawsuit claims

A judge soon is expected to decide whether a lawsuit filed by the mother of a black teen who committed suicide after receiving discipline at Modesto schools will go forward in federal court.

Doneisha Neil, 15, swallowed a lethal amount of allergy medication in February 2015, one day after learning of the last of three punishments at Beyer and Downey high schools, which she felt were unfair. School administrators “believed she was a lesbian student of color who should not be permitted to pursue sports activities on campus,” says a civil rights lawsuit filed by her mother, Latisha Cyprian.

Administrators failed to obtain Neil’s side of the story before suspending and expelling her from Beyer and before suspending her from Downey, as required by law, and they did little to get her counseling despite knowing she was suicidal, court documents say.

The Modesto Bee, December 30, 2017

Crestview Hills teen’s suicide leaves family trying to understand what happened 

Her son had been happy in that room. On countless nights, he covered the floor with air mattresses to watch a movie or play video games with friends around a couple of pizzas. His laughter could shake the house.

At 16, J.C. Ruf seemed content. He never let on otherwise to his mother or father or brother or his friends or his baseball coach. But after his death in October 2016, Karen Ruf agonized. The shock slowly melted into the realization that her son suffered from a disorder so devastating that he had no words to describe it, so fast-acting that no one saw warning signs., December 28, 2017

Supporting the struggling: Identifying resources and support for depression and suicide

The holiday season is a time of family and togetherness for most people, but Stacey Chipman, chief clinical officer with North Country Community Mental Health, said it can also be a time of loneliness for those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is a longstanding myth that suicides occur more frequently during the holiday season. The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics has reported that the suicide rate is at its lowest in December, with peaks in the spring and the fall. However, Chipman said the holidays can be difficult for those suffering from depression.

“What is true is that holidays tend to be really hard times for people who are already depressed,” Chipman said. “I think about the holiday season, what can we do to prevent, we can look out around us and see who’s alone and see who seems sad or seems withdrawn from the festivities or who needs to be included.”

Petoskey News-Review, December 28, 2017 

Ailments contribute to low life expectancy after first suicide attempt

People who had been in treatment for suicide attempts or self-injuries have a shorter expected life expectancy according to a new Swedish study.

“Suicide is of course very common  among this vulnerable patient group, but a closer look at the numbers shows that the higher mortality rate is caused by non-psychiatric disorders,” says Jussi Jokinen, psychiatrist and professor at Umeå University, in a press release.

He is one of the researchers who has studied registry data covering 185,000 persons in this type of treatment in Sweden from 1971 to 2010.

ScienceNordic, December 27, 2017

The Gun Lobby Is Hindering Suicide Prevention

In August 2006, my father fatally shot himself with a gun he pilfered from a friend’s bedroom. I wanted to do something positive in my mourning, so I went on a suicide-prevention walk organized by a nonprofit organization called the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Santa Monica, Calif.

After conversations with the A.F.S.P. staff area director in Los Angeles about my passion for suicide prevention and gun control — issues she told me she cared about, too — I joined the group’s Greater Los Angeles Chapter board, which required me to donate or raise $1,000 a year. I also helped organize an “Out of the Darkness” walk in Pasadena, Calif.; the organization raises more than $22 million a year at such walks around the country.

The New York Times, December 26, 2017

Study Finds Gay Teens Much More Likely To Consider, Attempt Suicide 

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and questioning high schoolers are more likely to attempt suicide, make a plan or consider suicide than heterosexual students. That’s according to new research published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The research is based on the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The surveys were taken in public and private schools by 15,624 students. Eleven percent of students answered that they identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning (LGBQ). The survey shows that these students were 1.45 times more likely to seriously consider suicide than their heterosexual peers.

Researchers found the most striking difference after posing the question, “During the past 12 months, how many times did you actually attempt suicide?” Lesbian, bisexual, gay and questioning students were 2.37 times more likely to have attempted suicide than heterosexual students. 

89.3 WFPL, December 26, 2017

Myths surrounding suicide 

Answer: It is only a myth that the suicide rate rises during the Christmas holiday. Research indicates that people may be shielded from suicide during the Christmas holiday because of the proximity of relatives and friends. In contrast to any holiday, the suicide rate tends to peak during the springtime.

There are a number of myths concerning suicide. Some have proposed that people are more likely to commit suicide during a downturn in the economy. Statistics on suicide indicate that the suicide rate increase during economic depression and during economic boom. The theory is that some people commit suicide during an economic boom as a result of feeling left behind. Interestingly, some sociologists have found that happiness is less affected by what money can buy than by people’s financial standing in relation to peers—the perception of being left behind.

The Delta Discovery, December 22, 2017

Suicide: Warning signs and how to help

Suicide is a serious public health problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities. While its causes are complex and determined by multiple factors, the goal of suicide prevention is simple: Reduce factors that increase risk and increase factors that promote resilience. Ideally, prevention addresses all levels of influence: individual, relationship, community, and societal. Effective prevention strategies are needed to promote awareness of suicide and encourage a commitment to social change.

The Jackson Sun, December 22, 2017

Family of 16-Year-Old Boy Who Died of Suicide After Relentless Cyberbullying Speaks Out

David Molak’s family vividly remembers the moment their adventurous and upbeat teenager turned into someone who was afraid to leave to the house and slowly lost his will to live.

It was on October 21, 2015, and a classmate of the 16-year-old sophomore at San Antonio’s Alamo Heights High School, compared his face to a monkey’s. Hundreds of comments then followed — including one that said he should be “six feet under” and another adding that he belonged “in a coffin.”

“He was so distraught,” his mother Maurine tells PEOPLE. “He said he could never go back to school. He just felt like everyone hated him.”

The bullying followed him everywhere, both online and in the halls at school. Despite all of Maurine and her husband Matt’s efforts — which included transferring him to another school — he attempted suicide twice before he ultimately took his own life on Jan. 3, 2016.

“He felt so low and scared,” says his father, Matt, 55. “He couldn’t take it anymore.”

PEOPLE, December 21, 2017

Genetic changes caused by environmental factors linked to suicide risk

Researchers have linked genetic changes in the so-called CRH gene, which affects the regulation of the body’s stress system, to suicide risk and psychiatric illness. The study of epigenetic changes in the body’s hormone-based stress system has shown that stress-related changes in the CRH gene are linked to both serious suicide attempts in adults and psychiatric illness in adolescents.

Science Daily, December 19, 2017

The Risk Of Teen Depression And Suicide Is Linked To Smartphone Use, Study Says

A new study found that teenagers are increasingly depressed, feel hopeless and are more likely to consider suicide. Researchers found a sudden increase in teens’ symptoms of depression, suicide risk factors and suicide rates in 2012 — around the time when smartphones became popular, says Jean Twenge, one of the authors of the study.

Twenge’s research found that teens who spend five or more hours per day on their devices are 71 percent more likely to have one risk factor for suicide. And that’s regardless of the content consumed. Whether teens are watching cat videos or looking at something more serious, the amount of screen time — not the specific content — goes hand in hand with the higher instances of depression.

KUNC, December 17, 2017

Bullies accused of driving honor roll teen to suicide

The family of a gifted Massachusetts teen claimed online bullies drove him to suicide — and now prosecutors are probing his sudden death.

Connor Francis Tronerud, 15, of Sutton, killed himself on Dec. 4 after “struggling with bullying from peers,” according to his obituary. The teen was a graduate of Marianapolis Preparatory School in Thompson who enjoyed a “trajectory of academic excellence” that began at Assumption School in Millbury, where he earned the highest grade point average in the school’s history and a spot in the National Junior Honor Society.

“Connor was a dynamic, witty, unforgettable young man,” according to a GoFundMe page created in his memory. “As he transitioned into adolescence, he struggled with peers invading that privacy in order to provoke a response. He had many spaces in which he felt safe and nurtured; others – including social media – proved overwhelming and harmful.”

The New York Post, December 15, 2017

Ketamine Relieved Suicidal Thoughts Within Hours in Hospital Study

When it comes to preventing suicide, true breakthroughs are hard to come by. The overall rate of suicide in the U.S. has increased since the turn of the millennium, reaching a 30-year-high in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And although there are many drugs and therapy approaches available for people with depression, less than half of people achieve any sustained remission. 

In recent years, though, doctors have found convincing evidence that low doses of ketamine, a drug used by doctors and veterinarians for its anesthetic properties and by sensation-seekers for its psychedelic effects, might represent an genuine advance in treating depression. A new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that ketamine could also be effective as a fast-acting treatment to prevent suicide.
– Ed Cara/Gizmodo, December 15, 2017

Ketamine for Rapid Reduction of Suicidal Thoughts in Major Depression:
A Midazolam-Controlled Randomized Clinical Trial–The American Journal of Psychiatry 

U.S.A. suicide 2015: Official Final Data PDF

American Association of Suicidology, December, 2017

NJ Girl Who Killed Herself Saw Story About Another Child’s Suicide: Sources

Investigators said they are still trying to determine what drove an 8-year-old New Jersey girl to suicide a week before her birthday, but sources close to the investigation said she had seen a story on Facebook about another girl killing herself in a similar manner beforehand.

Essex County prosecutors said they’re trying to determine if Imani McCray was copying what she had read about the death of 10-year-old Colorado girl Ashawnty Davis, or if she hanged herself in a case of tragic playacting at her home in Vailsburg on Sunday night. 

NBC 4 New York, December 12, 2017

Teen suicides are reaching record highs, forcing schools to ‘break the silence’

Stigma and guilt. Privacy and liability. Fear of copycats.

For many reasons, teen suicide and its prevention have long been kept out of the lesson plans of the nation’s schools.

But with deaths rising to record numbers in Missouri and elsewhere, area educators are beginning to open up the topic for discussion.

That’s by law, in many cases. Not necessarily by desire.

The Kansas City Star, December 10, 2017

Sifting Through a Life After Suicide

During a support-group meeting for people left behind by suicide, Hope Litoff realized she was among a group of collectors.

“We all had storage spaces of our dead person,” said Ms. Litoff, a New York film editor whose sister, Ruth, an artist and photographer, committed suicide in 2008 at the age of 42. “We all had the same feelings. We had saved every single thing. The items themselves were too precious to part with, but at the same time, too painful to look at.”

As Ms. Litoff thought about her ability to keep emotional distance in her work, it occurred to her that perhaps by making a film about her sister’s life and her possessions that were packed in a storage space, she could sort through all of it

The New York Times, December 7, 2017

Parenting behaviors linked to suicide among adolescents

Junior high school-aged children at significantly higher risk than peers when parents are not emotionally responsive.

How often do you tell your kids they did a good job? Do you say you are proud of them? Do you help with homework? Are you emotionally engaged with your kids?

A fresh look at a federally sponsored 2012 national study shows a significant link between parent’s behaviors and thoughts of suicide among adolescents, according to a presentation given by two University of Cincinnati professors at the 2017 American Public Health Association conference.

Their findings showed that children between the ages of 12 and 17 are significantly more likely to contemplate, plan and attempt suicide when their parents do not engage in certain behaviors that demonstrate to their children that they care about them. “Kids need to know that someone’s got their back, and unfortunately, many of them do not. That’s a major problem,” King said.

ScienceDaily, December 5, 2017

A 10-year-old’s schoolyard fight was posted on social media. She hanged herself two weeks later.

Ashawnty Davis wanted to be a WNBA star.

But after a video of the 10-year-old fighting another girl was posted to social media, Ashawnty was bullied, her family said.

The attacks brought on a despair so crushing that her basketball dream — and any other chance of happiness — felt impossible, relatives said.

So the girl from Aurora, Colo., hanged herself Nov. 16. She died Wednesday after spending nearly two weeks on life support at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Ashawnty was a fifth-grader at Sunrise Elementary School who brought “joy to everyone,” her father, Anthony Davis, told Denver’s Fox affiliate.

But something changed after her first fight in late October, which her parents said happened after Ashawnty confronted a girl who had been bullying her.

The Washington Post, December 1, 2017


November, 2017

FSU researcher finds link between excessive screen time and suicide risk

New research presents compelling evidence that the more time teenagers spend on smartphones and other electronic screens, the more likely they are to feel depressed and think about, or attempt, suicide.

Florida State University Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor Thomas Joiner, who co-authored a study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, said screen time should be considered a modern-day risk factor for depression and suicide.

“There is a concerning relationship between excessive screen time and risk for death by suicide, depression, suicidal ideation and suicidal attempts,” said Joiner, who conducted the research with psychology Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. “All of those mental health issues are very serious. I think it’s something parents should ponder.”

Florida State University, November 30, 2017

Facebook rolls out AI to detect suicidal posts before they’re reported

This is software to save lives. Facebook’s new “proactive detection” artificial intelligence technology will scan all posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts, and when necessary send mental health resources to the user at risk or their friends, or contact local first-responders. By using AI to flag worrisome posts to human moderators instead of waiting for user reports, Facebook can decrease how long it takes to send help.

Facebook previously tested using AI to detect troubling posts and more prominently surface suicide reporting options to friends in the U.S. Now Facebook is will scour all types of content around the world with this AI, except in the European Union, where General Data Protection Regulation privacy laws on profiling users based on sensitive information complicate the use of this tech.

Tech Crunch, November 27, 2017

Facebook is taking its suicide prevention AI global

Facebook is expanding its use of pattern recognition software outside of the United States to help prevent suicides, Reuters reported Monday. Facebook executive Guy Rosen said that the software’s initial testing in the U.S. was effective and led to first responders meeting with more than 100 users identified by the program as suicide risks.

Facebook’s pattern recognition software has taken big leaps forward, according to TechCrunch. In March, the company unveiled a less advanced version of the program that offered information about suicide prevention resources to flagged users and nudged them to reach out to a friend. Now Facebook’s artificial intelligence can automatically identify posts that include suicidal thoughts and send them to human moderators, who can then contact local authorities or first responders directly. “This is about shaving off minutes at every single step of the process,” Rosen said.

The Week, November 27, 2017

Saving Lives Via Text Message

Elisheva Adler was 20 years old, sitting in pajamas in her childhood bedroom in Long Island, the first time she saved someone’s life via text message.

Adler had just started volunteering as a counselor for Crisis Text Line. The 4-year-old nonprofit provides free crisis intervention through a medium that is increasingly favored by young people: texts. Using the code 741741, counselors have exchanged more than 50 million messages with people who are facing issues from stress at school to self-harm. Out of those exchanges have come thousands of “active rescues” where first responders are called to a scene.

Adler heard about Crisis Text Line when she watched a TED talk by founder Nancy Lublin. Lublin had been running a text-based volunteer organization for teens, called DoSomething. One day, Lublin tells NPR, the platform got a text that read, “‘he won’t stop raping me. It’s my dad. He told me not to tell anyone. r u there?’ ”

NPR, November 26, 2017

CDC: Increased social media usage linked to teen suicides

There’s been an increase in suicide rates among teenagers in the United States that occurred at the same time social media usage increased, and researchers say there may be a link to the two.

Suicide is a serious public health issue that affects many young people and is the third largest cause of death for youth between the ages of 10-24, resulting in about 4,600 lives lost each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

A study by the CDC doesn’t answer exactly why teen suicide has increased, but researchers suggest social media is one factor. 

The study’s authors looked at CDC suicide reports from 2009-15 and results of two surveys given to U.S. high school students to measure attitudes, behaviors and interests, according to the CDC. About half a million teens ages 13-18 were involved.

Cleburne Times-Review, November 26, 2017

Artificial intelligence initiatives may effectively combat suicide problem

Over 44,000 Americans take their own lives every year. In 2017, we are in the midst of a 30-year high of suicide rates, making suicide the second leading cause of mortality among young adults. Various factors, from major psychiatric illnesses, like depression and bipolar disorder, to chronic physical pain, can cause people to have suicidal thoughts.

Currently, people who are suicidal can be treated effectively only if they self-report what they are thinking to a professional. In a study concerning people who committed suicide in the hospital or immediately following discharge, 4 out of 5 patients denied having suicidal thoughts to the last mental health care professional with whom they met.

Although screenings for depression and anxiety have been regularized in health care centers throughout the country, they perhaps may not be to much effect. Thus, this is where we may need to start depending more on new technologies to fight the suicide problem, namely artificial intelligence (AI).

Collegiate Times, Nov 24, 2017

Are screens the enemy? A battle over what’s best for teens

A new study has found links between screen time and depressive symptoms and thoughts of suicide in adolescents — but it’s not time to throw the smartphone out the window just yet, experts say.

The study, published earlier this month in Clinical Psychological Science, found that 48 percent of teens who spent five or more hours online each day had one suicide risk factor — such as depression, thinking about, making a plan or attempting suicide. That was 66 percent higher than the teens who only spent one hour a day on phones.

“Something is going on (with teens),” study author Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and generations researcher, told the Deseret News, “and we need to figure out what it is so we can help them.”

Deseret News, Nov. 24, 2017

Self-harm rises sharply among tween and young teen girls, study shows

For girls navigating the straits of adolescence and young adulthood, there are new signs of serious emotional trouble. From 2009 to 2015, the nation’s emergency rooms saw a sharp rise in treatment of girls 10 to 24 who intentionally injured themselves.

But inside that increasing trend of girls and young women harming themselves — a yearly hike of 8.4% in ER visits over six years — lies an even more alarming statistic: Among girls 10 to 14 years old, rates of ER visits for treatment of self-harm surged 18.8% yearly between 2009 and 2015.

For girls in and around their middle school years, the statistics are a harbinger of turmoil and tragedy. Self-inflicted injury, including such behaviors as cutting, burning and ingesting poisons, is not only a cry for help, it is one of the strongest risk factors for suicide.

Among American kids 10 to 24, suicide was the second-leading cause of death in 2015.

The new statistics show that girls and young women were overwhelmingly treated in emergency departments after ingesting pills or poisons. Self-injury with sharp objects was about half as frequent. The data are in line with reports of an uptick in depression and suicide in young 

Americans, especially in young girls, starting around 2008-2009.

Los Angeles Times, November 21, 2017

With teen mental health deteriorating over five years, there’s a likely culprit

Around 2012, something started going wrong in the lives of teens.

In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of U.S. teens who felt useless and joyless – classic symptoms of depression – surged 33 percent in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased 23 percent. Even more troubling, the number of 13- to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31 percent.

In a new paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, my colleagues and I found that the increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background – more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country. All told, our analysis found that the generation of teens I call “iGen” – those born after 1995 – is much more likely to experience mental health issues than their millennial predecessors.

What happened so that so many more teens, in such a short period of time, would feel depressed, attempt suicide and commit suicide? After scouring several large surveys of teens for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.

The Conversation, November 14, 2017

Screen time increases teen depression, thoughts of suicide, research suggests

Hour after hour spent in front of phones, computer screens and tablets might aid depression and thoughts of suicide in teenagers, new research finds.

Researchers from San Diego State and Florida State universities discovered nearly half of teens who got five or more hours of screen time each day had experienced thoughts of suicide or prolonged periods of hopelessness or sadness. That’s nearly double that of teens who spent fewer than an hour in front of a screen.

The numbers come as the suicide rate among teenage girls has increased drastically, climbing 65% from 2010 to 2015. An author of the study hints the numbers could serve as a cry for help from a generation struggling with mental health.

“These increases in mental health issues among teens are very alarming,” said study author Jean Twenge, an SDSU psychology professor. “Teens are telling us they are struggling, and we need to take that very seriously.”

USA Today, November 17, 2017

Florida Student Shoots Himself Outside of School as Teen Suicide Reaches New Heights

A central Florida High School student shot himself outside the school bus loop Tuesday marking the latest suicide at a time when suicide rates are climbing, experts say.

The teen posted on Snapchat “Rest in peace [expletive] all of you who contributed to this” before shooting himself at the Lake Minneola High School, Lake County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. John Herrell told the Orlando Sentinel.

The shooting took place during a scheduled fire drill. But authorities said that it did not appear that anyone witnessed the shooting.

As word got out Tuesday, parents rushed to the school to try to pick up their children.

Experts say the high school student’s death is part of a larger trend. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in August that suicide rates for adolescent boys and girls have climbed since 2007, doubling for females between the ages of 15 and 19 and rising 30 percent for males. In total, 1,537 boys and 524 girls took their one life between 2007 and 2015 — numbers the CDC experts called substantial.

Newsweek, November 14, 2017

Rise in teen suicide, social media coincide; is there link?

An increase in suicide rates among U.S. teens occurred at the same time social media use surged and a new analysis suggests there may be a link.

Suicide rates for teens rose between 2010 and 2015 after they had declined for nearly two decades, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why the rates went up isn’t known.

The study doesn’t answer the question, but it suggests that one factor could be rising social media use. Recent teen suicides have been blamed on cyberbullying, and social media posts depicting “perfect” lives may be taking a toll on teens’ mental health, researchers say.

ABC News, November 14, 2017

Author: Teenagers Turning Pages Of Stories On Suicide Rather Than DystopiaPop Culture Is ‘America’s Subconscious,’ Culture Writer Says

In the 2000s, dystopian fiction for teenagers was all the rage. Take, for example, the novels-turned film franchises “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent.”

But another type of story seems to be filling a niche within teenage popular culture previously held by that dystopian material, says Vox culture writer Constance Grady: the teen suicide story.

NPR, Wisconsin Public Radio, November 9, 2017

‘If you see something, say something.’ Newport-Mesa school district seminar teaches suicide warning signs

As part of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s new program to educate staff about student suicide prevention, parents were invited to a seminar Tuesday night at Corona del Mar High School to learn about what experts say is a rising crisis nationwide.

“We feel it won’t happen in our backyard, but it’s happening everywhere,” said Angela Castellanos, district coordinator of mental health and outreach services. “We’ve had incidents where our students have died by suicide, so we’re not isolated from the phenomenon.”

Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2017

Are Suicide Stories Replacing Dystopian Stories In Teen Fiction?

In the 2000s, dystopian stories like “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” were wildly popular in young adult fiction. But one culture writer says that might be changing, and that dystopian stories are being replaced by stories by of teen suicide in the young adult fiction genre. We find out why….

Wisconsin Public Radio, November 7, 2017 (12 minute interview)

Long Island Mother Blames Vicious Bullying for Teen Son’s Suicide

A Long Island mother says she never realized how bad her son was bullied by kids at school until it was too late.

Angie Collazo said her 17-year-old son Angelo, who suffers from scoliosis, took his own life last week and she blames vicious bullying throughout his life as the reason for his death.

“He was bullied so bad that he felt his only option was to end his own life,” Collazo said. “Children used to punch him, kick him. They tortured him. That’s exactly what these children did. They tortured him.”

Collazo said the bullying began when Angelo was 10 years old, right around the time he started wearing a brace for his scoliosis. The teasing followed Angelo all the way to Hicksville High School, where Collazo said she made multiple complaints to school officials to stop the relentless bullying.

NBC New York, November 7, 2017

Lawyer tells court student suicide was MIT’s fault

A lawyer for the father of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Ph.D. candidate who killed himself on campus argued in Massachusetts’ highest court on Tuesday that universities could be held responsible when students commit suicide on their premises.

In arguments before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in a case questioning the responsibilities of universities, a lawyer for MIT said that schools could only be held liable in limited circumstances for student suicides on campus.

The student, Han Nguyen, jumped to his death at the age of 25 from the top of a building at the prestigious university in 2009.

His father’s lawyer, Jeffrey Beeler, told the court that MIT faculty knew Nguyen was a suicide risk but did nothing to ensure he received help. MIT disputed that assertion.

Reuters, November 7, 2017

An MIT student’s tragic suicide has some asking whether schools can be held responsible

Han Nguyen was consumed by depression and struggling to stay afloat at one of the world’s most prestigious universities. His mental health continued to decline until one day, moments after a professor confronted him about an offensive email, the 25-year-old jumped from the top of a campus building to his death.

Nguyen’s suicide has sparked a contentious legal battle headed to Massachusetts’ highest court over whether schools can be held responsible when students take their own lives. The case is being closely watched by colleges and universities, who say a decision against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would place an unreasonable burden on untrained employees to stop suicides., November 6, 2017

An 11-Year-Old South Carolina Girl Fatally Shot Herself Because of Bullying at School

Bullying at school led an 11-year-old Hampton, S.C. girl to fatally shoot herself, he family said

Toni Rivers, who was a sixth grader at a Hampton County School District 1 elementary school, had been bullied for months, her family said, and her mother, Amy Thomas, had been in contact with the school multiple times, WTOC reports. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating the girl’s death.

On Wednesday, Rivers told five of her friends “that she just couldn’t do this anymore, and she was going home and she was killing herself,” Maria Petersen, the girl’s aunt, told WT.

TIME, November 3, 2017

Study: Machine may predict suicide risk by measuring how people respond to words

Can you predict suicide risk? It may be possible, according to a new report.

Scientists from Carnegie Mellon University recently conducted a small experiment, published in Nature Human Behaviour, to determine if suicidal risks can be linked to biological brain patterns.

To do so, they assessed 34 young adults – 17 who had suicidal thoughts and 17 who did not – using a set of 30 words and a fMRI, an imaging machine that measures brain activity.

Scientists asked participants to read positive words, such as “bliss,” and negative words, such as “cruelty.” They were then instructed to reflect on them while undergoing the scan. 

They found the machine was able to correctly identify the people with suicidal thoughts and those without them 91 percent of the time. It also pointed out the individuals who had previously attempted suicide.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 2, 2017


October, 2017

How your brain responds to certain words might predict your suicide risk

When a person becomes suicidal, they don’t necessarily rush to tell friends, family, or even their doctor. They might feel ashamed of their thoughts and emotions, and wish instead for them to simply disappear. 

The stigma surrounding suicide is partly why it’s hard to predict and prevent. But doctors also don’t have great tools to diagnose whether someone is suicidal; patients can conceal self-harm and minimize their experiences when completing questionnaires designed to detect suicidal thinking.

This week, however, a group of researchers published a new study that demonstrates how a novel brain imaging technique can identify people who have suicidal thoughts, simply by presenting them with certain key words, asking them to reflect on their meaning, and using machine learning to analyze that brain activity. 

Mashable, October 31, 2017

Brain Patterns May Predict People At Risk Of Suicide

People who are thinking about killing themselves appear to have distinctive brain activity that can now be measured by a computer.

In these people, words like “death” and “trouble” produce a distinctive “neural signature” not found in others, scientists report in the journal Nature Human Behaviour. More than 44,000 people commit suicide in the U.S. each year.

“There really is a difference in the way [suicidal] people think about certain concepts,” says Marcel Just, an author of the paper and the D.O. Hebb professor of cognitive neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University.

NPR, October 30, 2017

At School Where Student Died, Bullying Led to a Suicide Attempt

The boy started sixth grade at his new school, eager to leave behind the years of bullying he suffered in the elementary grades. But at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx, the torment only got worse, he said.

Classmates yanked his long hair and tried to drag him around by his ponytail. They tripped him in the halls and stole from his backpack. They called him names and told a new girl he was gay, which he denies, so she would not befriend him. Every day in the cafeteria, he sat at a long table with a group of boys crowded at one end, a group of girls at the other, and him alone in the middle, surrounded by empty space.

“No one would sit next to me,” he said.

By February, he had enough of the bullying, he said. He used his sweater to try to hang himself in a school stairwell.

The New York Times, October 27, 2017

Screen time is one factor in rise of teen suicide: Parental monitoring of screen time can help

With teen suicide rising rapidly in the last 10 years, access to smartphones and computers is being looked at as one factor associated with the problem.

“Screens have changed bullying and I think in one way they changed is through a broader audience,” said Dr. Megan Moreno, division chief for general pediatrics and adolescent medicine for UW Health.

Dr. Moreno has also conducted research looking at the intersection of social media and adolescent health.

“Screens are their venue for communication,” said Dr. Moreno.

But when the communication turns to bullying, because of screens a child can’t escape it, even in their own home., News 3 Madison, WI, October 23, 2017

Is Social Media Contributing to Rising Teen Suicide Rate?

Sadie Riggs loved helping others.

The bubbly 15-year-old dreamed of becoming a firefighter, a lawyer, or veterinarian. She was passionate about drawing and spending time outside with her dogs in her small town of Bedford, Pennsylvania, about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Sadie had overcome challenges before — her biological mom, a drug addict, abandoned her when she was little — but in her final year of life, the high school freshman’s biggest obstacle was bullying from her peers.

“The kids started making fun of her for her red hair and braces,” said Sarah Smith, the aunt whom Sadie lived with. “The kids told her only devils had red hair.”

The taunting started in the school hallways but became inescapable, Smith said. Sadie was tormented on Facebook, Instagram, messaging platform Kik — where classmates would tell her to kill herself.

“I went to the police. I went to the school. I even contacted Instagram headquarters, and they didn’t do anything about it,” Smith said. “So finally I smashed her phone. I broke it in half. She was bawling every day and I couldn’t take it anymore.”

NBC News, October 22, 2017

Screen time is one factor in rise of teen suicide: Parental monitoring of screen time can help

With teen suicide rising rapidly in the last 10 years, access to smartphones and computers is being looked at as one factor associated with the problem.

“Screens have changed bullying and I think in one way they changed is through a broader audience,” said Dr. Megan Moreno, division chief for general pediatrics and adolescent medicine for UW Health.

Dr. Moreno has also conducted research looking at the intersection of social media and adolescent health.

“Screens are their venue for communication,” said Dr. Moreno.

But when the communication turns to bullying, because of screens a child can’t escape it, even in their own home., News 3 Madison, WI, October 23, 2017

Teen suicide survey results point to guns, depression and stigma

Jim Smith was 6 years old when he walked into his grandfather’s house just seconds after his grandpa had put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Now 74, Smith, a retired auto industry finance manager, says he’s never forgotten that day.

His family never talked about it, he said.

“We don’t want to talk about someone in the family being unstable. People think if you don’t talk about it, it didn’t happen,” Smith said. “I think the biggest issue is just not talking about it. We need to talk about this and remove the stigma. Mental health problems know no boundaries — not race, creed or class.”

The Kansas City Star, October 18, 2017

The Dark, Disturbing Trend of Teens Live Streaming Suicide, and How It Can Be Stopped

In 2008, 19-year-old Abraham Biggs overdosed on prescription drugs — and live streamed it on an internet forum.

While he was one of the first to broadcast his own death online, he wouldn’t be the last.

Eight years later, 12-year-old Katelyn Nicole Davis, of Georgia, hanged herself from a tree. A video of her death streamed on for more than 40 minutes before it cut out. She had regularly shared her feelings of depression and hopelessness on the site prior to taking her life in December 2016.

The following month, 14-year-old Nakia Venant used a scarf to hang herself in the bathroom of her Florida foster home while streaming live on Facebook. The video was two hours long.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 15 to 24. With this generation of young people living out much of their lives online, it is perhaps unsurprising that they’re using social media to express their darkest thoughts — and share their darkest moments.

Inside Edition, October 17, 2017

Psychiatrist Offers Reasons for Hope Despite Rise in Youth Suicide

There is hope beyond the headlines, according to a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Children’s Mercy Hospital and Clinics, even as research shows children and teens are taking their lives by suicide in greater numbers.

Dr. Shayla Sullivant said stigma and easy access to guns are problems that can be remedied in individual homes. She pointed to famous figures who experienced depression and suicidal ideology, ranging from Abraham Lincoln to actress Halle Berry and author J.K. Rowling.

“Think of all these people and the contributions they have made to our society,” she said. “There is reason for us to hope and there is reason for us to also think about how not having access to a firearm when these people were in the depths of despair is partly why they contributed what they did.”

Public News Service, October 16, 2017

Hughes pushes campus suicide prevention bills in Senate

More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from all medical illnesses combined, according to the National Database on Campus Suicide and Depression.

Also, one in 12 American college students makes a suicide plan and, each day, approximately 80 U.S. citizens take their own life and 1,500 more attempt to do so, according to the database.

When considering that suicide remains the second leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds and the problems realized when contemplating a host of other sobering but related statistics, it all has helped to motivate State Sen. Vincent Hughes who’s leading a push to provide more on campus assistance through two bills that currently sit in the Capital.

The Philadelphia Democrat has proposed SB 886 and SB 330, which combined would provide more of a safe haven and direction for students on the edge.

The Philadelphia Tribune, October 14, 2017

Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?

Parents, therapists and schools are struggling to figure out whether helping anxious teenagers means protecting them or pushing them to face their fears.

The disintegration of Jake’s life took him by surprise. It happened early in his junior year of high school, while he was taking three Advanced Placement classes, running on his school’s cross-country team and traveling to Model United Nations conferences. It was a lot to handle, but Jake — the likable, hard-working oldest sibling in a suburban North Carolina family — was the kind of teenager who handled things. Though he was not prone to boastfulness, the fact was he had never really failed at anything.

Not coincidentally, failure was one of Jake’s biggest fears. He worried about it privately; maybe he couldn’t keep up with his peers, maybe he wouldn’t succeed in life. The relentless drive to avoid such a fate seemed to come from deep inside him. He considered it a strength.

Jake’s parents knew he could be high-strung; in middle school, they sent him to a therapist when he was too scared to sleep in his own room. But nothing prepared them for the day two years ago when Jake, then 17, seemingly “ran 150 miles per hour into a brick wall,” his mother said. He refused to go to school and curled up in the fetal position on the floor. “I just can’t take it!” he screamed. “You just don’t understand!”

The New York Times, October 11, 2017

In New Hampshire, suicide stressors are abundant 

Jeremy Hannan wishes he could ask his son Triston a question.

Why did the 15-year-old, a Concord High School student with good looks, an outgoing personality and a deep connection to others, take his life last month?

“What caused him to do something so heinous to himself?” Hannan asked. “What was that one piece that was missing?”

Hannan may never find out why his son became one of the hundreds of New Hampshire residents who die each year by suicide, leaving behind a grieving family, friends and a trail of unanswered questions.

But those who study suicide and want to help suffering families are trying to identify trends in what causes people to take their own lives – and how tragedies like Triston’s death can be prevented.

Most who are considering suicide exhibit warning signs, experts say. More than 90 percent of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental health disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Concord Monitor, October 9, 2017

Knox County data on teen depression, suicide is ‘screaming’ for community’s attention

One in three Knox County public high school students said they felt sad and hopeless for two weeks in a row or more — enough to stop their normal activities — at least once last year.

Eleven percent — or about one in nine children — said they tried to kill themselves.

That data, part of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey released this month by Knox County Health Department, is “screaming to get our attention,” said Ben Harrington, director of the nonprofit Mental Health Association of East Tennessee. “If kids are experiencing mental health issues, then we need to, as a community, respond. That means we should be doing more to intervene earlier with kids in our community, and the community needs to be prepared to help.”

Knoxville News Sentinel, October 6, 2017

Americans living in rural areas more likely to die by suicide

Suicide rates in the United States have been rising sharply in recent decades, and Americans living in certain areas of the country are more at risk than others, according to new research.

A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that people living in rural areas of the U.S. are more likely to die by suicide than those living in urban areas.

“While we’ve seen many causes of death come down in recent years, suicide rates have increased more than 20 percent from 2001 to 2015. And this is especially concerning in rural areas,” CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., said in a statement. “We need proven prevention efforts to help stop these deaths and the terrible pain and loss they cause.”

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. During the study period from 2001 to 2015, more than a half million suicides occurred across the country.

CBS News, October 5, 2017

Mallory Grossman’s parents want bullies held accountable in daughter’s suicide

The parents of Mallory Grossman want the bullies who tormented their 12-year-old daughter, causing her to commit suicide, to be held accountable.

Dianne and Seth Grossman appeared on the ‘Megyn Kelly Today’ show Thursday morning to share their story as part of National Bullying Prevention Awareness month. 

Mallory took her own life on June 14 following about nine months of bullying from several classmates, her parents have said. In August, the Grossmans announced their intention to sue the school district, alleging it was grossly negligent for allegedly failing to address the bullying of their daughter.

Dianne Grossman told Kelly she thinks the girls who bullied her daughter need “to be held accountable and understand the magnitude of what they did.”

“I think that those girls should spend the rest of their lives (doing) community service to really understand, and they should dedicate their lives just as we’ve done,” Grossman said., October 5, 2017

State Suicide Rate Continues To Increase, Latest Mass. Data Show

The state’s suicide rate continued a decade-long trend and increased 3 percent in 2015, the most recent year for which data are available. The suicide rate for women saw an uptick as compared with 2014, while the rate among men stayed the same.

There were 631 suicides in Massachusetts in 2015, compared with 608 in 2014, according to data from the state’s Department of Public Health. That represents an increase in the suicide rate from 9.0 (per 100,000) to 9.3 (per 100,000).

Suicide statistics released at the state level and nationally by the Centers for Disease Control routinely lag two to three years behind, at least partly because of the length of time it can take to confirm whether certain deaths were intentional or unintentional.

In 2015, 163 women and girls killed themselves. That compares to 140 the year before (an increase in the suicide rate for females from 4.0 to 4.7 per 100,000). The biggest increase was among women ages 45 to 54.

WBUR 90.9, October 3, 2017

Sen. Hatch’s suicide prevention bill advances

Senator Orrin Hatch issued a statement Wednesday morning, after the Senate Commerce Committee voted to advance his critical suicide prevention legislation.

““Over the last year, I’ve met with countless families who have lost loved ones to suicide,” Hatch said. “The parents I spoke with said that in their moments of crisis, they didn’t know where to turn for help. While there is no perfect solution to this devastating problem, I believe this legislation will help.”

The bill aims to provide people suffering with faster, easier access to life saving resources.

Hatch’s bill would create an easy-to-remember 3-digit suicide hotline, similar to 911. This resource would connect those in peril to crisis resources, such as the 24/7 CrisisLine call center that Senator Hatch recently visited in Utah.

KUTV, October 3, 2017

Suicide attempt survivor: ‘Silence is harmful’

As a teenager, Erica Smith felt completely disconnected from her peers. She felt like they were easily enjoying life, and she wasn’t able to enjoy anything at all. She was feeling shame, anxiety, fear and exhaustion.

Smith had experienced sexual trauma in middle school and high school. She received support afterward, but then people quit checking on her and she didn’t talk about it.

“I felt like what happened to me wasn’t a big enough deal to warrant the feelings that I was having,” she said. “I felt ashamed about what happened and how much it was impacting me. I felt like everyone else in my life had moved on and I needed to, but I couldn’t.”

The Lawrence Journal-World, October 1, 2017