News Archive: Oct, Nov, Dec 2020

December 2020

Statement: Suicide Rate Decreases for First Time in 10 Years According to Most Recent CDC Data (Year 2019)

Today the CDC released its most recent data related to suicide for the year 2019. The national rate of suicide has been on the rise since 1999. While suicide is still the 10th leading cause of death, according to these data, the suicide rate went down for the first time in two decades. The rate of suicide in 2019 decreased by 2.1 percent from the previous year. In 2018 there were 48,344 suicide deaths; in 2019 there were 47,511, a decrease of 833 deaths. Dr. Christine Moutier, the Chief Medical Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention released this statement:

“As the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, we are heartened and encouraged to see the national suicide rate decrease for the first time in 20 years in the United States. We do not yet know about suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic because the United States does not collect suicide data in real time, therefore, claims about increasing suicide rates during COVID-19 are not based in current available data and are unfounded. Emerging data from several countries show no evidence of increased suicide rates during the first few months of the pandemic.

PRNewswire, Dec. 22, 2020

My Friend Is Talking About Suicide. How Can I Help?

One of your close friends has been struggling lately. When you messaged to see how they’re doing, they replied: “I can’t stand myself. I spend all day thinking about the mistakes I’ve made. The world would be better off without me. At least I wouldn’t feel so terrible anymore.”

No, they didn’t come right out and say, “I’m thinking about suicide.” Still, the underlying meaning of their words alarms you.

You care about your friend and want to offer reassurance, but you’ve never had thoughts of dying yourself, and you have no idea what to say.

First, know they might feel scared, too. Even people who have suicidal thoughts often fear those thoughts. People thinking of suicide don’t necessarily have a clear plan or specific timeline. They simply want a way to stop pain that seems unbearable and impossible to overcome.

It’s normal to feel helpless when a friend mentions suicide, however indirectly, but there’s a lot you can do to help. In fact, your compassion and support could make all the difference.

Healthline, Dec. 20, 2020

Identifying Adolescent Suicide Risk via Depression Screening in Pediatric Primary Care: An Electronic Health Record Review

The authors evaluated suicide risk rates detected via a depression screener administered within a large pediatric primary care system and examined 1-year follow-up care after adolescents’ endorsement of suicide risk.

Retrospective electronic health record data were extracted to examine both suicide risk rates from items endorsed on the Patient Health Questionnaire–Modified for Teens (PHQ-9-M) and primary care providers’ (PCPs’) follow-up suicide risk assessments on the day of depression screening among adolescents ages 12–18 years during the period of September 1, 2014, to August 31, 2016.

Manual chart review was conducted, and charts were coded for several follow-up care actions (e.g., referral to behavioral health providers and provision of crisis line information) in the year after suicidality endorsement.

Psychiatry Online, Dec. 18, 2020

Suburban College Student Dies by Suicide After Struggling With Isolation

Childrens’ emergency room visits related to mental health have increased significantly during the pandemic, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

An 18-year-old University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign freshman died by suicide in October while grappling with isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, his family said.

Now, his mother is sharing her family’s tragic story in hope of sparing others from similar heartbreak.

Trevor Till, who was from suburban Seneca, excelled in the classroom at Seneca High School and in activities including marching band and cross country. “His potential was immense,” Trevor’s mother, Lisa Moore, said. “My boy could have been anything.” As a freshman living in a dorm at UIUC, the pandemic drastically changed life for the 18-year-old.

“He was a social person, so being alone was not him,” Moore said. Social isolation took a toll on Till, his mother said. On Oct. 21, the 18-year-old died by suicide. “Students that are involved in lots of things like Trevor are suffering, because they don’t have those things,” Moore said.

Channel 5 NBC News Chicago, Dec. 12, 2020

The mental health dilemma: If technology is the problem, can it also be the solution?

The must-see Netflix documentary, “The Social Dilemma,” released early this year, draws attention to the link between heavy smartphone use and mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. But there’s a paradox brewing, because the latest solutions for mental health ask people to spend more time on their phones.

Digital mental health is trending. Think texting your therapist via Talkspace or meditating with Calm. Five of the top 10 venture capital-backed mental health startups are smartphone apps. The top 20 mental wellness apps were seeing 3 million new downloads per month before Covid-19 began striking hard in March, which grew to 4 million in April.

While the expanded access to mental health resources is remarkable, these products face two contradictory goals. Technology is built to engage, to keep us logged in for as long as possible. But if excessive screen time is worsening mental health issues, good mental health care should probably help us disengage from our phones.

STAT, Dec. 8, 2020

Genetics Can Lead To Higher Suicide Risk, Study Finds

A new study sheds light on the genes that may be able to predict someone’s risk of suicide. The research may pave the way for a genetic test that could potentially predict a person’s risk of suicide.

The test would be a long way off, but the research provides a foundation. According to Anna R. Docherty, PhD, lead author and an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah Health, it gives us a better understanding of the genes involved in suicide risk—and the potential for calculating risk based on these genes.The October study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry details Docherty’s research that found more than 20 genes that may play a role in suicide.

Researchers say their evaluation was among the first genome-wide assessment of suicide death. It also found cross-connections to behaviors and psychiatric diseases that are linked to suicide, which include: bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorder.

verywellhealth, Dec. 4. 2020

Study Warns Against Fake News of Suicide Increase During Holidays

There is a myth pertaining to the rise of seasonal suicide. As the rumor goes, over the holidays, everybody feels overwhelmed whether because they are with their family or because they have no one. 

This presumption is incorrect. Fewer people take their lives in the holiday months. But the theory of the rise in suicides during the holidays continues, according to a recent study from the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) at the University of Pennsylvania. The media and newspapers, in particular, are a huge culprit.

In 2015, November and December were the two lowest months in average suicide deaths per day, ranked 12th and 11th, respectively, according to statistics from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while January was eighth. Rather than a suicide surge at the end of the year, average daily rates appear to increase in spring and summer, with the maximum average daily rates in 2015 in May, July, and March.

The Science Times, Dec. 2, 2020

November 2020

Suicide Rates Among Young People Spiked After Missouri Loosened Gun Laws, Study Finds

Gun-related suicides among young people in Missouri rose sharply after legislators relaxed state gun laws, based on a new report from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Missouri has had one of the highest rates of gun deaths in the U.S. for the past decade, many of which are suicides among teenagers and young adults.

In 2018, a young person died every four days in the state due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Missouri lawmakers have whittled down gun regulations in recent years, shaping them into some of the least restrictive in the nation. Gun-related suicides among young adults ages 19 to 24 had been declining since at least 1999, according to the analysis of publicly available data. But in 2007, firearm suicide rates in this age group jumped by nearly 22% after the state eliminated its permit-to-purchase requirement.

The law had previously required Missourians to submit an application to their local sheriff’s office before purchasing a handgun from licensed dealers or private sellers. Since the 1920s, it served as an “extra step” in the gun buying process, said study co-author and University of Missouri-Kansas City psychiatry resident Apurva Bhatt, “to make sure that those who were getting a firearm could have it safely.”

Though it’s difficult to track how many guns are purchased in Missouri each year, she said, repealing the law may have allowed more people to buy guns and made them more accessible.
“We saw a pretty drastic decline in non-firearm suicide rates, suggesting that potentially people were switching to firearm methods,” Bhatt said.

St. Louis Public Radio, Nov. 30. 2020

‘He just gave up’ – School shutdown drives Baltimore County teen to depression, suicide

A Baltimore County family dealing with tragedy says the school shutdown is having a devastating impact on kids.

Michael Myronuk Jr. was a 14-year-old freshman at Dulaney High School. He was a gifted and talented student who loved Star Wars. He was a perfectionist, who in March, began learning virtually. He hoped that would change in September, but Baltimore County Schools remained virtual due to COVID.

His parents say their son struggled with the school shutdown and would have adjusted better if he had returned to the classroom.

“Kids more so, especially when they’re developing at this age. Our son made a choice he can’t ever take back,” said Michael’s mother, Heathyr Sidle.
Michael’s parents say the isolation affected him. By October, he became resigned and disengaged. A counselor diagnosed signs of depression.

Fox 5 News Baltimore, Nov. 23, 2020

For months, he helped his son keep suicidal thoughts at bay. Then came the pandemic.

One in 4 young adults have struggled with suicidal thoughts since the coronavirus hit, CDC says. “I could see the storm coming,” said father.

He visits the grave every day.

And every day, Ted Robbins asks himself the questions that have plagued him since the night his 16-year-old son killed himself, one month into the pandemic.

What if Robbins hadn’t canceled their family vacation? What if their school hadn’t closed down? What if his son Christian could have leaned on his best friends through this rough patch like he had in the past?

But one question haunts him the most: “What if the pandemic never happened? Would my son still be alive?”

Since the coronavirus arrived, depression and anxiety in America have become rampant. Federal surveys show 40 percent of Americans are now grappling with at least one mental health or drug-related problem. But young adults have been hit harder than any other age group, with 75 percent struggling.

Even more alarming, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently asked young adults if they had thought about killing themselves in the past 30 days, 1 of 4 said they had.

The Washington Post, Nov. 23, 2020

15 Mason kids to hospitals for suicidal ideation in 3+ weeks, COVID-19 pandemic hits kids hard

After 15 students in Mason City Schools were taken to hospitals for suicidal thoughts in less than a month, the district’s superintendent issued a plea to students and parents, “Please let us help.”

“Reach out to us,” Superintendent Jonathan Cooper told families in a video released Friday. “Do not wait.”

“In Mason, specifically, we’ve looked at, over the last three to four weeks, 15 cases where students have had to go to the hospital for suicide ideation,” Cooper said to families in his weekly wrap-up Nov. 13.

He said he is certain there are more kids who’ve had suicidal thoughts than those 15, because the district only can learn of the hospitalizations if families want to come forward.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Cooper said.

The district’s students are not unique in facing pandemic-related mental health challenges. Across the region and nation, people, including kids, are suffering from mental health issues triggered by pandemic-required isolation, food and health services changes, financial losses for families and other issues.

Cincinnati Enquirer, Nov. 17, 2020

Older teens, young adults may be taking a hard hit to their mental health during the pandemic, survey says

The CDC survey found 63% of 18 to 24-year-olds reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. No matter what your age, everyone is feeling the impact of months of disrupted routines, worry about their own health and that of their loved ones and economic uncertainty. Now, a new CDC survey shows older teens and young adults may be taking a hard hit to their mental health.

Twenty-two-year-old Matthew Whoriskey hits the courts most mornings. With his gym closed due to COVID, he’s working out–outside.

“It definitely keeps me grounded and keeps me feeling like I’m moving in the right direction,” explained Whoriskey.

The recent college grad got his diploma in the mail. He’s joining hundreds of thousands of other grads looking for work. “It’s stressful. I’m just trying to find a new normal,” Whoriskey continued.

The CDC survey found 63% of 18 to 24-year-olds reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. Twenty-five percent reported increased substance use to deal with the stress. And 25% said they had seriously considered suicide.

Brandon Stratford is an education researcher with expertise in youth development and mental health. He says the trends are troubling.

“A lot of the suicide prevention hotlines are reporting larger numbers of youth and adults as well, calling in about suicide,” stated Stratford., Nov. 14, 2020

Young student’s suicide attempt shows reality of mental health crisis amid pandemic

A Clark County School District student, just 12-years-old, attempted to take his own life a few days ago.

“This is a shocking,” said the boy’s grandfather. “I think we’re still left trying to process all of it.”
His family says it was a call from the school district that alerted them and ultimately helped save him.

It’s another sign that the mental health crisis is intensifying among students learning from home. This instance shows one of three major crises the district is looking at when considering moving to hybrid learning in January.

The child’s grandfather wants to make people are aware that this could happen to anyone. “You just walk around all your waking hours thinking about all the what-ifs,” said Larry. He is still processing the call he received from his daughter.

My grandson was using a school-issued iPad and was searching “how to make a noose” and that somehow alerted the school.

3 News Las Vegas, Nov. 12, 2020

A Timely Intervention: Preventing Suicide

Warning signs can alert parents to a child’s suicide risk.Youth suicide rates are increasing at a concerning rate. A 2019 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report noted that the suicide rate for children ages 10-14 nearly tripled from 2007 to 2017, and the rate for those ages 15-19 rose 76%. While traditional factors like hopelessness, abuse, trauma and substance abuse remain significant, researchers are trying to determine whether others, including social media engagement and economic and political stressors, could be fueling the increase. And these factors likely are only exacerbated by the disruptions and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regardless of the cause, most experts agree that parents and caregivers can be the first line of defense in protecting at-risk children. U.S. News spoke with John Ackerman, psychologist and suicide prevention coordinator for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Rhonda Boyd, a psychologist and assistant director of the Youth Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Research Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, about the emerging crisis and families’ roles in slowing the trend.

U.S. News & World Report, Nov. 11, 2020

It’s Not Just Adults Who Are Stressed. Kids Are, Too.

Identifying your child’s emotional and behavioral reactions to stress is crucial, experts say, especially when anxieties are high.

Families are under an extraordinary amount of pressure right now, and the next few months will provide little relief. The trials of 2020 include economic uncertainty, winter dread, an emotionally charged presidential election and a worrying rise in coronavirus cases. Then there’s the disrupted school year, remote learning and few (or no) options for child care. (That’s an abbreviated list.)

Experts are understandably concerned about how all of this might be affecting kids’ mental and behavioral health. In October, the American Academy of Pediatrics released new clinical interim guidance on how to support the emotional needs of children during the pandemic, emphasizing the vital role parents can play.

“Even in the midst of very trying times, there are ways to promote resilience, and families can do that,” said Dr. Carol Weitzman, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and the co-director of the Autism Spectrum Center at Boston Children’s Hospital who co-authored the academy’s guidelines.

The New York Times, Nov. 3, 2020

Teens who spend more time in extracurricular activities and less time in front of screens have better mental health, study finds

If you’re worried about your kids’ mental health, particularly because of the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing mandates, less screen time and more extracurricular activities will help, says a new study.

Adolescents–especially girls–who spend more time in extracurricular activities and less than two hours of screen time after school have better mental health, according to a study from the University of British Columbia and published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Both factors were associated with higher levels of life satisfaction and optimism and lower levels of anxiety and depression, the study said. Longer screen time was particularly harmful for girls, as researchers saw a “significantly more pronounced” association between more screen time and worse mental health, the study said.

But it’s not healthy for either gender: Screen time that went beyond the recommended limit of two hours was still significantly associated with lower satisfaction and optimism among boys and girls, the study said.

CNN, Nov. 4, 2020

Preventing Suicide in the Age of COVID-19 by Christine Moutier, MD

Many factors have come into play during the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, not the least of which has been meeting the flood of challenges in the realm of mental health. Rather than paint a bleak picture, Christine Moutier, MD, presents the unique opportunities for clinicians in identifying risk and preventing suicide.

In this podcast, Moutier discusses her recent paper published in JAMA Psychiatry, “Suicide Prevention in the COVID-19 Era: Transforming Threat Into Opportunity.” Moutier is chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Psychiatric Times, Nov. 4, 2020

October 2020

As the Pandemic Surges, Mental Health Problems on the Rise

A series of studies reveals increases in mental health challenges. In the first week of the coronavirus pandemic, people living in the United States underestimated their chances of catching the virus or of getting seriously ill from the virus, according to a recently published study from the California Institute of Technology. But as the pandemic progressed, those same people became more worried about their personal risk, and, as a result, began to increase protective behaviors such as washing hands and social distancing.

A series of more recent groundbreaking studies show that COVID-19 has battered the economy and along with it, the mental health of American workers, setting off a wave of worsening stress issues. People have lost wages, jobs, and loved ones in record speed. And no vaccine is in sight until mid-2021. People are weary, depressed, and burnt out living under self-distancing restrictions. Long after a vaccination is developed and years after the coronavirus death toll is tallied, scientists predict the impact on mental health will linger, continuing to inflict damage if not addressed. Including issues like Stress and Burnout, Substance Abuse, Multiple Stressors and Media Consumption and Upsetting Dreams.

Psychology Today, Oct. 31, 2020

Mental Health Issues Prevalent in Quarantining Students

Among university students confined during the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of mental health issues was high, according to a study published online Oct. 23 in JAMA Network Open.

Marielle Wathelet, M.D., from Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Lille in France, and colleagues collected data from April 17 to May 4, 2020, from 69,054 students living in France during the COVID-19 quarantine. Students were asked to complete an online questionnaire to examine the prevalence of mental health symptoms.

The researchers found that 42.8 percent of students reported at least one outcome; of these students, 12.4 percent reported seeing a health professional. The prevalence rates of suicidal thoughts, severe distress, high level of perceived stress, severe depression, and high level of anxiety were 11.4, 22.4, 24.7, 16.1, and 27.5 percent, respectively.

Physicians Weekly, Oct .27, 2020

Carlsbad mom: Social isolation a factor in 11-year-old son’s suicide attempt

A Carlsbad mother believes the social isolation created by the pandemic was one factor in the suicide attempt of her 11-year-old son.

A photo shows Jessie, 11, playing tetherball outside her home two Thursdays ago. Hours after the photo was taken, his mother Tara says her son vomited.

Soon after, an ambulance was rushing him to the hospital. In her kitchen cupboard was a nearly empty Costco-sized bottle of ibuprofen. “It was a 500-pill bottle, and we estimate he took 400 pills,” said Tara.

At the hospital, Jesse couldn’t breathe on his own. His kidneys failed, but doctors were able to save Jesse. “It’s a miracle, so thankful,” said a tearful Tara. The grateful mother is now in search of answers. She talked to her son in the hospital.

“He said he didn’t see that there was much worth living for. He felt like there were too many things stacked up against him,” said Tara.

ABC 10 News San Diego, Oct. 27, 2020

Suicide Prevention in the COVID-19 Era: Transforming Threat Into Opportunity by Christine Moutier, MD

Suicide, a leading cause of death with devastating emotional and societal costs, is a generally preventable cause of death and a critical global public health issue. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may increase the risk of population suicide through its effects on a number of well-established suicide risk factors.

Observations  Prior to the pandemic, many countries were engaging in suicide prevention strategies, and although the overall global burden of suicide deaths has increased, some national efforts were beginning to see positive results. Additionally, the gap between mental health needs and services has been increasing in many nations. With the added physical and mental health, social, and economic burdens imposed by the pandemic, many populations worldwide may experience increased suicide risk.

Data and recent events during the first 6 months of the pandemic reveal specific effects on suicide risk. However, increases in suicide rates are not a foregone conclusion even with the negative effects of the pandemic. In fact, emerging suicide data from several countries show no evidence of an increase in suicide during the pandemic thus far. There are actionable steps that policy makers, health care leaders, and organizational leaders can take to mitigate suicide risk during and after the pandemic.

JAMA, Oct. 16, 2020

Hard Truths About Suicide Prevention

Suicide accounts for nearly 50,000 deaths annually in the US, making it the second leading cause of death among persons 10 to 34 years of age. Although psychiatric illness is associated with elevated rates of death from a range of causes, from cardiovascular disease to cancer, suicide stands out: it occurs precipitously, disproportionately involves younger individuals, and is generally viewed as more preventable.

Suicide represents a particular challenge in the military because soldiers are placed in extremely stressful situations, often without adequate physical or emotional support. Their risk remains elevated even after they leave active service and attempt to reenter a society ill-equipped to acknowledge their special needs. For this reason, the US Department of Defense and the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have invested billions of dollars to reduce the incidence of suicide. Every VA secretary for the past 15 years has made suicide prevention a top priority and vowed to eliminate suicide.

They have launched initiatives that included hiring more than 400 suicide counselors; establishing hotlines that receive more than 600,000 calls per year; screening patients for depression and post traumatic stress disorder at nearly 60 million primary care, emergency, and mental health visits each year; and ensuring that every person discharged from the military is contacted personally. Despite these heroic efforts, the number of veterans who die by suicide every year has actually increased during the past decade.

Roy H. Perlis, MD, MSc; Stephan D. Fihn, MD, MPH

JAMA, Oct. 21, 2020

Covid: What is the mental health cost to the young?

Young people’s risk of becoming ill with Covid-19 is tiny – but could the long-term mental health impact of virus restrictions be far more damaging?

Thousands of students are in enforced self-isolation at universities, and thousands more children are missing out on school because of positive Covid tests in their midst.

This follows nearly four months of disrupted education and cancelled exams during lockdown, which led to a stressful scramble for university places when grades were recalculated. They face an economy in recession and a future where jobs are in short supply.

A growing number of psychologists, psychiatrists and child health experts believe the needs of the young are being ignored in this pandemic.

They say children have suffered enough and should be allowed to live normally. And they point out that what young people have been asked to sacrifice for others far outweighs their own health risk from the virus.

BBC News, Oct. 10, 2020

Suicide Attempts Among Children Skyrocket Amid Pandemic

According to Cook Children’s Medical Center, 29 patients were admitted to the hospital after attempting suicide during the month of August, the second-worst month since at least 2015

It’s back to school for all North Texas children and mental health experts are warning about a disturbing trend that may continue as kids head back to class.

Cook Children’s hospital in Fort Worth said they’ve seen a spike in suicide attempts.

In August, 29 patients were admitted to the hospital after attempting suicide, marking the second-worst month since at least 2015.

“What we’ve learned is that kids are getting to the point where they’re becoming more hopeless, with trying to get out of the house or some of the social activities that they’re doing,” said Kia Carter, M.D., medical director of psychiatry at Cook Children’s Medical Center.

Carter said suicidal ideation may also be more prevalent during the pandemic because more children are on their devices and online than ever before.

She said kids, some as young as 4-years-old, are learning about death and have even become desensitized through exposure to video games and social media.

5 NBC DFW, Oct. 8, 2020

Are the kids all right? Supporting your teen’s mental health through Covid-19

Less than a month into the academic year at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Alex, a 17-year-old high school senior, is feeling the strain of life in an uncertain time.

Growing up, he saw tests, grades and applications as part of a predictable, step-by-step process leading toward college. Not so much in a pandemic.

“All of that is sort of gone right now. You don’t really know what to do next, and that’s a big point of stress,” he said. “It’s really easy to feel isolated in terms of everything that’s going on. You don’t necessarily know where to turn.”

Since the pandemic began, thousands of Arizona teens have turned to Teen Lifeline, a crisis line where Alex volunteers as a peer counselor. (Teen Lifeline volunteers use their first names only in the media to keep counselors anonymous.)

In an average year, calls and texts to the hotline decrease between 30% and 40% over the summer. Kids are simply less stressed during summer vacation. This year, summertime volume at the hotline went up by 6%, instead. A much higher proportion of the contacts have come in by text, as well. Many teens are stuck at home, without enough privacy from their families to make a confidential phone call.

CNN, Oct. 8, 2020

How to have open conversations about suicide with your kids

YouTuber Anna Akana shares her story and commitment to mental health advocacy after her sister, Kristina, died by suicide. John MacPhee, the Executive Director and CEO of the Jed Foundation, talks about the impact of physical distancing and protecting emotional health in teens and young adults. Plus, Hoda and Jenna talk to Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, about how parents can create a safe space to talk to their children about mental health and suicide. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

TODAY, Oct. 2, 2020