On this page we’ll be posting links to articles and information that will help our visitors gain a broader perspective of issues important to us. We will look across the wide spectrum of suicide research, adolescent brain development, and the diagnosis and treatment of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. For more links, please see our News Archive page.

May 2020

Instagram Launches ‘Guides’ Feature, Focus On Mental Health

On Monday, Instagram launched a new Guides feature that enables users to find curated content from specific creators. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the app is initially partnering with a small set of creators and organizations around the world specifically invested in creating wellness content. 

Among the first participating accounts are the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Heads Together in the UK, Vita Alere in Brazil, Sudah Dong in Indonesia and e-Enfance in France. Heads Together, a mental health group, kicked things off with a guide to talking about how we feel, replete with 30 posts that encourage the reader to “Share your anxieties and encourage others to share too,” or utilize publicly available mental health services.

Forbes, May 20, 2020

Letter: A friend’s teenager died by suicide with an unsecured gun

Kids are naturally curious — with kids home, hiding a gun isn’t securing a gun.

The teenage daughter of our good friend died by suicide with a gun that was hidden but unsecured in her home. This was heartbreaking for the family, a pain that endures to this day.

An estimated 4.6 million children in the United States live in a household with at least one gun that is loaded and unlocked. In this time of confinement with children home all day, it is more important than ever to secure any guns and ammunition.

Kids are naturally curious and an unsecured gun can lead to unintentional or intentional shootings. Hiding a gun is not securing a gun. Guns in the home with children present must be unloaded and secured with a cable lock, lockbox or in a gun safe, with ammunition stored separately. It’s our responsibility as adults to prevent access to guns by children; it’s not a curious child’s responsibility to avoid guns.

The Mercury News, May 9, 2020

Colorado emergency departments take new steps to prevent youth suicide: Storing firearms and medications more safely can help parents save lives

A new study conducted in seven Front Range emergency departments demonstrated success in helping parents make their homes safer when a teen is distressed.

The study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine showed that efforts by hospitals to counsel parents on safe storage of guns and medications were successful. For the study, investigators from the Program for Injury Prevention, Education and Research (PIPER) in the Colorado School of Public Health on the Anschutz Medical Campus collaborated with investigators from Northeastern and Harvard Universities.

The researchers worked with mental health providers at emergency departments to counsel parents of adolescents at risk of suicide. The counseling included advice on how to more safely store guns and medications, and parents received free locking devices.

Scienmag, May 5, 2020

How to support your child’s mental health during COVID-19 and beyond

For parents already concerned about their children’s social media activity, the “infodemic” of misinformation and even greater dependence on phones during the COVID-19 pandemic will only heighten anxieties. Deepening these challenges is a lack of collective experience that could help parents decide what guidelines to adopt to protect their offspring’s health online.

World Economic Forum, May 1, 2020

Ohio State alum shares story of child’s suicide, tells parents COVID-19 isolation is real

It’s a heartbreaking question to a father: How do you want him to be remembered? “What I remember is hugging him,” Brad Hunstable said. “I miss kissing him on the head and feeling his hair. I miss playing football with him. I miss joking around with him and wrestling.”

There’s so much to miss for a dad who is missing his son. “My son died from the coronavirus as I mentioned,” Hunstable says in his online video. “But not in the way you think.”

Hunstable’s 12-year-old son, Hayden, died by suicide on April 17, just four days before his 13th birthday. Photos show a crowd of family and friends joining to celebrate and remember Hayden. His dad believes the why is a “perfect storm” of reasons.

WBNS 10 News, May 1, 2020

April 2020

Remove barriers to make mental health services accessible for college students

The coronavirus pandemic has led colleges and universities to navigate the “new normal” with a singular focused goal: supporting our students and campus communities in a holistic way. As presidents of Jesuit institutions, we use the term “cura personalis” — care for the whole person — to describe the caring and formation of our students, faculty and staff. Special attention is given to students in their journeys. We display this in solidarity whereby we accompany one another toward the end for which we believe we are created.

Students’ growth is measured by academic success and, in equal part, their social and emotional well-being. While we are working tirelessly to ensure our students can flourish as part of their new virtual learning community through rigorous and meaningful instruction, we also want to do more to address students who are struggling to obtain help for their mental, behavioral and emotional needs, but are facing barriers associated with state laws on telehealth and licensure.

The Hill, April 26, 2020

Suicide risk and prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic

The mental health effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic might be profound and there are suggestions that suicide rates will rise, although this is not inevitable. Suicide is likely to become a more pressing concern as the pandemic spreads and has longer-term effects on the general population, the economy, and vulnerable groups. Preventing suicide therefore needs urgent consideration. The response must capitalise on, but extend beyond, general mental health policies and practices.

There is some evidence that deaths by suicide increased in the USA during the 1918–19 influenza pandemic and among older people in Hong Kong during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic.

The current context is different and evolving. A wide-ranging interdisciplinary response that recognises how the pandemic might heighten risk and applies knowledge about effective suicide prevention approaches is key. Selective, indicated, and universal interventions are required.

The Lancet, April 21, 2020

You’re not alone: Campus suicide prevention initiatives

Still recovering from the fallout of her aunt’s suicide several months earlier, Megan Nedden knew she needed to find a way to incorporate mental health care work into her campus activities when she arrived at UW-Madison as a freshman in 2016.

“I never wanted anyone to have to feel how my family [did] losing someone [or] how I felt,” Nedden said. “You don’t get over it — it sticks with you, and I wanted to be able to help people.”

When she saw a sign for Ask.Listen.Save with the words “suicide prevention” in big green letters at the student organization fair, Nedden knew it was how she wanted to get involved.

Now, a graduating senior and president of the organization, she has been able to serve on the Suicide Prevention Council — a group of mental health professionals, faculty, staff and students tasked with creating and sharing campus mental health resources on suicide prevention.

The Daily Cardinal, April 19, 2020

How to protect your mental health in the time of coronavirus

From social isolation to working on the front line, the mental health challenges of the pandemic are wide reaching. We ask experts how to protect ourselves

After weeks of complete social isolation, Italy has undergone what psychiatrist Paolo Brambilla calls “a social experiment that has never been done before”. The country has suffered a massive death toll from the coronavirus, and has endured one of the strictest lock downs in the world. The effects on the nation’s psyche will be profound, says Brambilla, who is at the University of Milan. This month saw half of the world’s population enter some form of confinement, and many people are facing the biggest threat to their health and livelihood in recent history.

“We are seeing the spread of a virus, but we have also, from the very beginning, been seeing the spread of fear as well,” says Aiysha Malik, a psychologist at the World Health Organization. As well as having to wrap our heads around the threat of the virus itself, public and personal life has changed beyond recognition. The actions we have had to take to curb the spread of disease have left some of us struggling to cope with a lack of childcare while working, a loss of income, separation from family and friends, and serious health fears.

New Scientist, April 22, 2020

‘The most stressful time ever’: how coronavirus affects children’s mental health

Barnet Pavão-Zuckerman’s 10-year-old daughter worries about her parents when they leave their home in Silver Spring, Maryland, to get groceries.

She’s concerned about her grandparents, too. And, though she’s been busy with virtual playdates and online learning, she’s bothered by the thought that she may never get to see her friends or teacher again in person.

“This is kind of a lot,” the girl told her mom recently.

Her seven-year-old brother is still too young to express how he feels in words. So instead, he screams and storms out of the house. Then, he sits cross-legged in the driveway, taking deep breaths.

“This is truly the most stressful time that they’ve ever experienced,” Barnet said.

The Guardian, April 17, 2020

San Francisco Suicide Prevention Seeing Record Surge In Calls During Coronavirus Pandemic

Less than a month after the coronavirus shelter-in-place order began in the Bay Area, mental health officials in San Francisco reported seeing record surges of calls about depression, anxiety and loneliness.

As of Wednesday, 17 people have died from the coronavirus in San Francisco. From March 1 to April 14, 12 people have taken their own lives. KPIX spoke to someone who suffers from depression with a hopeful message for those who may need to hear it.

John-Paul Strom says he has suffered from depression for years, but this past week was one of the hardest he’s had during this pandemic. “Well, I’m stir-crazy, but aren’t we all?” Strom said.

Like everyone else, he’s been confined to his home for weeks, which doesn’t help those feelings of isolation and darkness that people with depression may already battle on a daily basis.

“A lot of negativity, a lot of the kind of thoughts and feelings like, if I’m busy or I’m out in the world, I can sort of tune out,” Strom said. “When you’re all alone in your room, they are right there with you.”

KPX5 CBS, April 15, 2020

Feeling the pressures of the pandemic: Suicide hotlines see 800 percent spike in calls

Jobs disappearing, businesses shutting down, and separation from friends and family due to COVID-19 have placed an uncomfortable, emotional strain on people. Some describe feelings of unmanageable stress, isolation sadness and thoughts of being trapped or powerless.

With that, Former Congressman Patrick J Kennedy says calls at suicide hotlines have increased by 800 percent as resources shift to COVID-19 relief. The mental health advocate sounded the alarm at a Metro Nashville news conference, raising the question – Will the silent killer of mental illness be our country’s next major crisis?

“The tragedy of COVID is it exacerbates this already prevalent mental health and addiction crisis. No one doubts that mental health and addiction is real,” Kennedy commented. “Every single American has been faced with a mental health issue in this COVID crisis, themselves, not just a family member, but themselves.”

Fox17 Nashville, April 14, 2020

Why suicide risk may increase as we cope with COVID-19

The global pandemic caused by the coronavirus has upended every aspect of people’s lives. More than three-quarters of Americans say they are living in relative isolation, avoiding small gatherings and public places. The communal hobbies and events that bring people joy and meaning — sports, movies, birthday parties, weddings — are now virtual affairs, if they happen at all. Meanwhile, the economic impact of COVID-19 is staggering: more than 16 million U.S. workers filed for unemployment in just three weeks.

Trauma and grief follow in COVID-19’s wake as the disease destroys our collective sense of normalcy, kills thousands of Americans, and threatens to be deadly for a projected 60,000 people in the U.S. The loneliness, anxiety, and depression that, for some, accompany the pandemic has prompted concern about a brewing mental health crisis. Now, a new article published in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that COVID-19 may lead to increased risk of suicide. The suicide rate, which is 14.2 per 100,000 people, has been rising steadily for years.

Mashable, April 10, 2020

Going online, suicide-prevention walk finds success

Hundreds of people took part in Sacramento State’s online Out of the Darkness Campus Walk on Thursday, April 9, connecting virtually with others across the city to support mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

With donations still coming in, the event had raised $16,000 by Monday, a significant portion of the goal of $20,000 set for Sac State this year.

This year’s walk was unique because of concerns about spreading the coronavirus. For the first time, participants walked individually rather than gather on campus with others. They walked their chosen routes, distancing themselves from one another as they strolled with friends and relatives, carrying signs and expressing sentiments about the issue and its impact on their lives. They shared moments from their walks through social media.

Sacramento State News, April 10, 2020

U.S. Suicide Rate Climbed 35% in Two Decades

The U.S. suicide rate has jumped 35% in the past two decades, health officials reported Wednesday.

From 1999 to 2018, the suicide rate rose from 10.5 to 14 per 100,000, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers found the rate of suicide rose by about 1% a year from 1999 to 2006, then increased to 2% a year from 2006 through 2018.

The report also shows that men are more likely to die by suicide than women, and people in rural areas are at greater risk than their urban counterparts.

U.S. News & World Report, April 8, 2020

Netflix to launch weekly Instagram Live series about coping during the COVID-19 pandemic

Netflix is launching a new series on Instagram that will focus on taking care of yourself and your mental health during the COVID-19 global pandemic. The series, which will begin airing on Instagram Live tomorrow at 7 PM PT, features the stars of some of Netflix’s top Young Adult shows and movies, including “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” “The Kissing Booth,” “Stranger Things,” “Cheer” and “13 Reasons Why.”

The series will run every Thursday from now through May 14 on the @Netflix Instagram account, and will discuss the sort of challenges that young people are facing during the health crisis.

For example, it will touch on topics like “what helps if you’re having trouble sleeping?,” “how do you stay connected during social distancing?,” “how do we manage anxiety?” and “what self-care actually means.”

Tech Crunch, April 8, 2020

Coronavirus Isolation: Calls To Suicide Hotline Up 40% In March

Calls to a suicide crisis hotline have increased across the Sacramento region, one company says.

According to WellSpace Health, which claims to have the region’s largest certified crisis center, says calls to its suicide prevention and crisis line increased by 40 percent between February and March. They also answer calls made to the National Suicide Prevention Crisis Lines.

The company’s CEO traces the increase in suicidal thoughts to factors out of people’s control.

“People feel exceptionally helpless right now and those feelings are translating to thoughts of suicide and self-harm,” said Dr. Jonathan Porteus, a licensed clinical psychologist and CEO of WellSpace Health.

CBS 13 Sacramento, April 6, 2020

Podcast: Monday Event Congressman Seth Moulton & Dr. Christine Moutier on Suicide Prevention

Representative Seth Moulton will host Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for a digital fireside chat. Podcast is posted below.

Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention said: “It is more important than ever to prioritize our mental health. By recognizing what we can control during this unprecedented public health crisis, we can take protective, proactive measures to safeguard our own mental health and that of others. I would like to thank Congressman Moulton for engaging in open dialogue about mental health during these challenging times.”

Moulton and Dr. Moutier talk about strategies to maintain mental wellbeing during a stressful time for most Americans.

MSO News Sports, April 6, 2020

March 2020

CNN Town Hall – Corona virus and Mental Health

Psychiatrist Dr. Christine Moutier of the AFSP gives advice on how to cope with anxiety and stress related to social distancing, and 5-time Olympic Gold Medal-winning swimmer Katie Ledecky has advice on how to stay active while under self-quarantine.

CNN, March 26, 2020

Celebrity Suicide: ‘Clear and Compelling’ Contagion Effect

Media reports of celebrity suicides are associated with a “clear and compelling” increase in suicide rates in the general population, new research shows.

Results from a systematic review and meta-analysis show reports of celebrity suicide were linked to an increase in suicide of up to 18% over the following 1 to 2 months. In addition, reporting the method of suicide was associated with an increase of 18% to 44% in the risk of suicide by the same method.

“It suggests that particularly reporting about deaths of celebrities by suicide has a clear and compelling impact on subsequent suicide rates. The association is even stronger for celebrities that have a strong social status in the population,” he added.

Medscape, March 19, 2020

Protect Your Family’s Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This is an unprecedented time for all of us. Take these steps to help yourself and your kids cope.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have heard from many parents concerned about the impact the coronavirus epidemic is having on their emotional health and their children’s mental well-being. Kids and teens, too, are expressing their own worries about the impact COVID-19 is having on their lives.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to protect your family’s mental health during this very difficult time.

• Know That This Will End
• Make Social Distancing and Self-Quarantining Manageable
• Resist the urge to treat this time as a vacation.
• Create a schedule for yourself and your children for each day.
• Your family’s schedule should include physical activity.
• Limit your family’s exposure to news.
• Use technology for social interaction.
• Starting Now, Make Plans Only for the Very Near Future – About 3 Days
• Rely on Official Health Recommendations to Make Difficult Decisions
• Acknowledge Painful Changes Related to Social Distancing
• Know Anxiety or Depression Could Get Worse
• Try Not to Pass Your Anxiety on to Your Kids

U.S. News & World Report, March 18, 2020

Suicide 2nd leading cause of death for those ages 10-24 in California

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the new 2018 Fatal Injury Data. In California, suicide is the second leading overall cause of youth death and every 0.67 days on an average a young person age 10-24 is lost to the silent epidemic of youth suicide.

With that being said, suicide is one of the leading causes of preventable death. Four out of every five young people who attempt suicide exhibit clear warning signs before an attempt. It means in 80% of attempts people have an opportunity to recognize these warning signs and intervene. By knowing the warning signs associated with suicide and knowing how to help, they could save a life.

Valley News, March 19, 2020

Teen Suicide Spiking Due in Part to Unrealistic Expectations, Hotline Expert Says

Youth suicide is on the rise — and Kris Hallstrom, manager of a national teen suicide prevention hotline based in Nebraska, is working to stop it. 

One of her strategies: Bust kids’ belief that life is perfect, a myth she said is perpetuated by television dramas and carefully curated social media accounts.

To make the point, she displayed a “prom pic” at a workshop she gave in Washington in February on preventing teen suicide. The students in the photo — a gaggle of Midwesterners — were dressed to the nines, the boys in black and white tuxes and the girls in flowing pastel gowns. 

They were all smiles — despite a tornado threat that forced them to cancel their dinner plans and other typical teen drama like acne, relationship issues and school stress. Also invisible: the deeper challenges many were experiencing at the time, including eating disorders and alcoholism, divorce and death in the family.

“Kids have such an unrealistic expectation of everything being perfect,” Hallstrom said. “It’s just not a real thing.”

Her goal is to help them understand that “it’s OK to not be OK all the time” — and to give them the love, support and skills they need to cope with trauma and overcome adversity. 

Youth Today, March 18, 2020

Is Suicide Really a Selfish Act?

Many people believe one of the most harmful myths about suicide. When a person dies by suicide, they leave behind an enormous amount of pain for their loved ones. As a result, many people believe the deceased acted selfishly, without consideration for the effects on others. However, this belief is one of the most harmful myths about suicide.

Kristi Hugstad encountered this myth after she lost her husband Bill to suicide. “After Bill’s death, the most common thing people said to me was, ‘I can’t believe he did this to you,’” said Hugstad in our conversation on the Think Act Be podcast. “So it was all about Bill causing pain to the people who loved him.”

I’ve experienced some of that pain myself when people I’ve known have taken their own lives. I still wonder every day why a good friend of mine killed himself nearly three years ago. What led him to that point? What was he feeling in his final days and moments? What could I have done to help him? And while I never met my father’s father, his suicide eight years before I was born left a legacy of pain that I felt in our household when I was growing up.

Psychology Today, March 13, 2020

8% of children have suicidal thoughts, new study says: Two percent of have reported a suicide attempt.

Eight percent of 9- and 10-year-olds reported suicidal thoughts and 2% reported a suicide attempt, according to a new study of 8,000 children in the U.S., published in Lancet Psychiatry.
Suicide is a major public health concern and the second-leading cause of death in youth after unintentional injury.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a 30% increase in suicides in the United States in the past decade, with rates increasing in all age groups. The rates of emergency room visits for adolescents and children complaining of suicidal thoughts have also increased over the past years.

ABC News, March 12, 2020

UVM team develops 2-minute suicide risk assessment app

A suicide risk assessment tool developed by a team of University of Vermont researchers is making its way into the prison and the military systems. It’s in the early stages of a rollout that the creators hope will significantly aid health care providers in identifying and saving people who are in crisis.

The Systematic Expert Risk Assessment for Suicide, or SERAS, is a questionnaire that can be administered on an iPad. It was developed at UVM as a clinical assessment of the acute risk of suicide within 72 hours, and has been tested in a clinical setting in hospital emergency departments.

Answering the questions is quick – it takes just two minutes – and, because it’s on an iPad and not administered personally, it can eliminate some of the barriers that stop patients from telling health care providers if they are considering harming themselves., March 8, 2020

Suicide has only gotten younger. These two families, bonded by loss, are taking action.

Alec Murray was 13. He enjoyed camping, fishing and skiing. At home, it was video games, movies and books. Having just completed middle school with “almost straight A’s,” those grades were going to earn him an iPhone for his upcoming birthday.

Instead, he killed himself on June 8 – the first day of summer break.

Caleb Stenvold was 14. He was a high school freshman in the gifted and talented program. He ran track and played defensive cornerback on his school’s football team. Just two months into high school and four months after Alec’s suicide – Caleb killed himself on Oct. 22.

The teenagers, both from Reno, Nevada, didn’t know each other. But their families now do, bonded by loss. Their parents are haunted by what they don’t understand: why.

USA Today, March 7, 2020

What’s Behind the Increase in Adolescent Suicide? What we do and don’t know about teen suicide.

Although the first season of the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why was released several years ago, its questionable portrayal of adolescent suicide continues to make waves in the suicide prevention community. At first glance, it would certainly seem that the show’s portrayal of a high school student who eventually dies by suicide would raise the risk of suicide contagion.

After all, the show’s representation of young Hannah Baker, her struggles with a desire to escape her life, and her eventual suicide seems to flout almost every single rule about safe messaging that exists. And of course, these rules exist for a reason—irresponsible portrayal of suicide and suicidality can absolutely increase the risk for contagion.

Yet the extent to which this show actually led to a noticeable increase in rates of adolescent suicide is very much up for debate. Lately, it often feels like we are going in circles with this question. A recent time series analysis found a significant increase in monthly suicide rates in teenagers aged 10 to 17 following the release of the show. Another time series analysis published in May of 2019 in JAMA had the same finding.

Psychology Today, March 6, 2020