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.
Thousands of messages show what it really means to help someone who’s suicidal
Trigger warning: This story explores suicide and details of self-harm. If you are at risk, please stop here and contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for support at 800-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.
A little over a decade ago, Deena Nyer Mendlowitz and Susan Messing began a conversation on Facebook Messenger that would grow to more than 5,000 chats and reveal the complexity of suicidal suffering.
Their conversations – the kind that typically happen in hushed tones, if they happen at all – are full of violent fantasies and fragments of undelivered goodbyes, reflections on the limits of psychic pain and the capacity to heal. There is frustration and discomfort and desperation, but also encouragement, acceptance, optimism.
Susan, 56, a full-time comedian in Chicago, and Deena, 43, a part-time one in Cleveland, punctuate the dark with tragicomic quips on the absurdity of wanting to live but not knowing how.
Deena is chronically suicidal. Since she was a child, the monologue in her head has told her to die. She didn’t have a suicidal crisis, seek help, and see her suicidal thoughts fade away. She thinks about dying daily, even if she doesn’t always have a plan for killing herself.
Deena says her suicide feels inevitable. Susan says Deena’s death is inevitable – when she goes, how she goes, is not.
Their conversations are not fueled by despair, but by hope. Deena writes because she’s fighting for something she knows she deserves: a future.
And Susan is there, at 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. and at noon, when Deena checks into the hospital and when she checks out, for the breakthrough and the setback, pulling her friend toward life once again.
More young people are dying by suicide, and experts aren’t sure why
The rate of suicide among those aged 10 to 24 increased nearly 60% between 2007 and 2018, according to a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rise occurred in most states, with 42 experiencing significant increases.
“It’s a real trend that has been demanding, for a while, a serious public health and research effort to understand what is happening and why,” said Anna Mueller, an associate professor of sociology at Indiana University Bloomington who studies suicides in adolescents. “I don’t buy that it’s just social media, which is one of the explanations that I most consistently see.”
The suicide rate increased from 6.8 per 100,000 in 2007 to 10.7 in 2018. The report compared three-year averages of suicide rates for 2007–2009 and 2016–2018 and found:
• The 2016–2018 suicide rate among persons aged 10–24 was highest for Alaska (31.4 per 100,000). • States with the highest suicide rates for that period include South Dakota (23.6), Montana (23.2), Wyoming (20.5) and New Mexico (19.6). • States in the Northeast were among those with the lowest suicide rates: New Jersey (5.7), Rhode Island (5.9), New York (5.9), Connecticut (6.3), and Massachusetts (6.4). • Even states with the lowest rates experienced significant increases: New Jersey had an increase of 39%, New York about 44%, and Massachusetts about 64%.
The Pandemic Has Researchers Worried About Teen Suicide
Teen and youth anxiety and depression are getting worse since COVID lockdowns began in March, early studies suggest, and many experts say they fear a corresponding increase in youth suicide.
At the end of June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed Americans on their mental health. They found symptoms of anxiety and depression were up sharply across the board between March and June, compared with the same time the previous year. And young people seemed to be the hardest-hit of any group.
Almost 11 percent of all respondents to that survey said they had “seriously considered” suicide in the past 30 days. For those ages 18 to 24, the number was 1 in 4 — more than twice as high.
Data collection for several studies on teen mental health during the pandemic is currently underway. And experts worry those studies will show a spike in suicide, because young people are increasingly cut off from peers and caring adults, because their futures are uncertain and because they are spending more time at home, where they are most likely to have access to lethal weapons.
Mental Health, Suicide, and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Are COVID-19 related suicides the next crisis?
The United States is a nation currently plagued by many crises. We are facing a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and a civil rights crisis all at the same time. The coronavirus pandemic alone had changed almost every facet of life for hundreds of millions of Americans. For nearly two months, most Americans lived under stay-at-home orders meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Unemployment rates ballooned when the economy first started slowing down in March 2020.
Although many Americans are slowly getting back to their lives pre-coronavirus, the lingering mental and emotional toils of the coronavirus pandemic look like they are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Add in scenes of police brutality and civil unrest being played out on the media on a daily basis, and mental stress and anxiety become front and center.
Given this confluence of stressors, the mental health of many Americans is becoming a major concern as we adapt to absorb the psychological impact of these major events. Data shows that one-third of U.S adults have reported symptoms of clinical anxiety and depression related to this public health crisis.
Suicide may run in the family. A closer look at genetic risk.
For decades, researchers have looked to human genetics for linkages to mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Patterns of inheritance are murky, but it is clear that “stuff runs in families,” says Dr. Douglas Gray, a psychiatrist and researcher at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
His 2018 study – published in the journal of Molecular Psychiatry – went a step further. It examined four specific gene variants that appear to raise the risk of suicide.
Four percent “of genes in the genome have current evidence associated with suicide risk,” according to the study, which identified the variants as APH1B, AGBL2, SP110 and SUCLA2. Their presence is “noticeably associated with suicide risk.”
“We need to tell people who’ve had a suicide that their family’s at risk,” said Gray, who studies suicide to better understand risk factors and develop prevention programs. This genetic component may account for as much as “45 to 50% of the risk,” he said.
Young Adults’ Pandemic Mental Health Risks
In a new C.D.C. survey, 18- to 24-year-olds reported the highest levels of symptoms of anxiety and depression, and a quarter of them said they had seriously considered suicide.
Yes, these are hard times, and everyone is stressed, but new data suggest that young adults — both those who are going back to college and those who are not — may be suffering particularly hard when it comes to mental health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released survey data on adult mental health, looking at a national sample of adults during the last week in June. Unsurprisingly, the stress level is high, with 40.9 percent overall reporting at least one “adverse mental or behavioral health condition.”
One question asked whether the person responding had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days, and more than one in 10 respondents said yes, with higher percentages among unpaid adult caregivers, essential workers, and Hispanic and Black responders. And 25.5 percent of the young adults surveyed — the 18- to 24-year-olds — answered yes.
10 Most Common Reasons for Teenage Depression
Nothing is more synonymous with teenagers than the word “moody.” However, if that moodiness persists for longer than normal, your teen may be experiencing something a little more severe.
According to Mental Health America, one in five teens is clinically depressed. Teen depression is more than kids feeling sad, nursing a broken heart, or feeling overwhelmed by their stay-at-home lives. It can be a medical illness that interferes with their daily activities like sleeping, eating, and schoolwork.
Here are the most common reasons for teenage depression.
1 – Brain Chemistry
2 – Genetics
3 – Social Status
4 – Changes in Family Life
5 – School Performance
6 – Early Childhood Trauma
7 – Bullying
8 – Learned Patterns of Thinking
9 – Sexual Orientation
10 – Drug and Alcohol Abuse
How to talk about suicide with your kids
It’s been a strange year for almost everyone. From all of this stress, kids might find it difficult to deal with.
Suicide is a hard topic for all of us to talk about. Annie Gabriel with Lutheran Community Services said the more we talk about it, the easier it is to have these conversations.
“About how health impacts us and ask questions about safety, ask questions about suicide, the more likely youth will be able to come to us or answer honestly when they are having thoughts about suicide,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel said often warning signs of suicide are extreme changes in behaviors or moods.
“So we want to ask really good questions when we start seeing things out of the ordinary,” Gabriel said.
If you see extreme changes in mood, she said you should pay attention.
“So becoming really irritable or sad or depressed or also when you see someone who has a low mood for a long time and suddenly have a bright mood,” Gabriel said. “You want to follow-up with them with some really good questions.”
When you see behaviors like giving away a prized possession, Gabriel said that is a red flag. She said giving away passwords to social media accounts is also a warning sign she has recently become aware of.
CDC: One quarter of young adults contemplated suicide during pandemic
The toll is falling heaviest on young adults, caregivers, essential workers and minorities.
One in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 say they’ve considered suicide in the past month because of the pandemic, according to new CDC data that paints a bleak picture of the nation’s mental health during the crisis.
The data also flags a surge of anxiety and substance abuse, with more than 40 percent of those surveyed saying they experienced a mental or behavioral health condition connected to the Covid-19 emergency. The CDC study analyzed 5,412 survey respondents between June 24 and 30.
The toll is falling heaviest on young adults, caregivers, essential workers and minorities. While 10.7 percent of respondents overall reported considering suicide in the previous 30 days, 25.5 percent of those between 18 to 24 reported doing so. Almost 31 percent of self-reported unpaid caregivers and 22 percent of essential workers also said they harbored such thoughts. Hispanic and Black respondents similarly were well above the average.
‘Feels like the world is against you’: Young people struggle with finding mental health support amid COVID-19 pandemic
Kathryn Boit feels “guilty for struggling so much” these past few months.
As president of the Harvard Student Mental Health Liaisons, she has “college friends, acquaintances and strangers reach out to me for resources and advice,” she said. “I don’t know the answers anymore.”
It’s no wonder Boit, a Harvard sophomore, feels overwhelmed. Prevalence of depression among college students increased since the pandemic closed campuses this spring compared with fall 2019, according to a survey of 18,000 college students published by the Healthy Minds Network on July 9. And of the nearly 42% of students who sought mental health care during the pandemic, 60% said it was either much more or somewhat more difficult to access care.
Mental health among young people has been worsening for years. A 2019 analysis of teens reported 13% of U.S. teens ages 12 to 17 (or 3.2 million) said in 2017 that they had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year, up from 8% (or 2 million) in 2007.
Looking at the climbing data on anxiety yields even starker numbers. The Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA asked incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed” by all they had to do. In 1985,18% replied yes. In 2000, that climbed to 28%. By 2016, it rose to nearly 41%.
Nasal Spray Is A New Antidepressant Option For People At High Risk of Suicide
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a variant of the anesthetic and party drug ketamine for suicidal patients with major depression.
The drug is a nasal spray called Spravato and it contains esketamine, a chemical cousin of ketamine.
In 2019, the FDA approved Spravato for patients with major depressive disorder who hadn’t responded to other treatments. Now, the agency is adding patients who are having suicidal thoughts or have recently attempted to harm themselves or take their own lives.
“Spravato is the first approved antidepressant medication that’s been able to demonstrate a reduction in symptoms of major depressive disorder within 24 hours after the first dose,” says Dr. Michelle Kramer, a psychiatrist and vice president of U.S. neuroscience, medical affairs at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which makes the drug. Janssen is part of Johnson & Johnson.
The Best Ways to Prevent Suicide: When knowledge is the power of prevention
Suicide prevention is always a priority, especially during times of economic decline, illness, and uncertainty. But what are some of the best strategies for success? If you know someone whom you suspect is harboring thoughts of ending their life, what do you say? If you want to send a message within your community, what are some of the best methods of suicide prevention public messaging? Research has some answers.
Donna Littlewood et al. (2019) examined the issue of suicide prevention in a qualitative study involving a review of quality practices as described by clinicians.[i] They extracted data from the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (NCISH) database, which examined suicides among people receiving mental health services.
Should schools reopen for students’ mental health? Experts weigh in
Mental health experts say school is important for kids’ developmental health.
The talk of schools reopening in the fall and the push from President Donald Trump and his secretary of education to open in-person classes have many parents worried about the safety of their children.
“It is critically important for our public health to open schools this fall,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. School closures due to the coronavirus pandemic have disrupted normal ways of life for children and parents, and have had negative health consequences for our youth, he said.
Although the CDC has said that scientific studies suggest COVID-19 transmission among children in schools may be low, many remain concerned.
The consensus of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and American Psychiatric Association (APA) is that they generally support the CDC’s push to reopen schools for the sake of children’s mental and developmental health — but also caution that some communities where the virus is circulating should not reopen.
Lithium in drinking water linked with lower suicide rates
Naturally occurring lithium in public drinking water may have an anti-suicidal effect – according to a new study from Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London.
Published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the study collated research from around the world and found that geographical areas with relatively high levels or concentration of lithium in public drinking water had correspondingly lower suicide rates.
Professor Anjum Memon, Chair in Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine at BSMS and lead author of the study, said: “It is promising that higher levels of trace lithium in drinking water may exert an anti-suicidal effect and have the potential to improve community mental health. The prevalence of mental health conditions and national suicide rates are increasing in many countries. Worldwide, over 800,000 people die by suicide every year, and suicide is the leading cause of death among persons aged 15-24 years.”
“In these unprecedented times of COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent increase in the incidence of mental health conditions, accessing ways to improve community mental health and reduce the incidence of anxiety, depression and suicide is ever more important.”
Bullying, Suicide and Youth: What We Need to Know Now
A new survey shows an increase in suicide attempts and bullying.
Suicide is a difficult topic to discuss, yet a necessary one. Recently Duval County schools released new data in their survey, Youth Risk Behavior (YRBS), regarding how common thoughts of suicide are among school-age children.
Although we typically think about depression as it relates to adults, with more than 264 million people affected by the disorder, suicide is consistently a leading cause of death for those under the age of 18.
In high schools, the survey found that more students have seriously considered attempting suicide than a decade ago.
Pandemic Hurts Student Mental Health
Sixty percent of college students say the pandemic has made it harder to access mental health care, even as financial stresses and prevalence of depression increased among them, according to a new survey on the impact of COVID-19 on student well-being.
The survey by the Healthy Minds Network for Research on Adolescent and Young Adult Mental Health and the American College Health Association garnered results from 18,764 students on 14 campuses. Researchers say much of what they found is more confirmatory than surprising, but having the hard data will help colleges make decisions about providing mental health and well-being services to students.
Among the results:
• Sixty-six percent of students report the pandemic has caused them more financial stress – “a known predictor of student metal health,” according to the report on the survey results.
• Prevalence of depression among college students increased since the pandemic caused the closure of campuses this spring compared to fall 2019, while prevalence of substance abuse decreased. A higher proportion of students – 30.5 percent compared to 21.9 percent the prior fall – reported that their mental health negatively affected their academic performance on at least six days during the prior four weeks.
A new survey found students had difficulty accessing mental health care and experienced higher rates of depression after the pandemic began, prompting calls for a broad response from colleges.
Study: Warning Sign For Parents If Teens Post About Suicide On Social Media
Posting content related to suicide is an indicator that young people might be thinking about suicide, according to a recent study.
Researchers anonymously surveyed 15,000 middle and high school students in the Stark County area, which recently experienced a rapid increase in youth suicides between August 2017 and March 2018.
Study co-author Luke Werhan of the Ohio Department of Health said they found 23 percent of students who posted about the cluster of deaths by suicide to social media had suicidal thoughts, and 15 percent attempted suicide during the cluster. Experts sometimes call this phenomenon suicide contagion, or the spread of suicidal behaviors.
“When someone’s posting about a suicide cluster or a friend or family member who had died, that is a risk factor for suicide,” he said. “Even if they’re not, in the post, expressing suicidal ideation, the fact that they’re posting about it makes it clear that that’s something they’re thinking about or wrestling with.”
“13 Reasons Why” and Teen Suicide
Did the popular show really spark an increase in youth suicides?
On March 31, 2017 Netflix released its controversial series 13 Reasons Why. If you haven’t seen the show, it details the suicide of a teenage girl who, in audiotapes, describes the reasons for her suicide, typically blaming the actions of others. The show was a critical and commercial success, but also a lightning rod for moral criticism. Advocates for suicide prevention and other groups were concerned that viewing the show might trigger some youth into committing suicide.
Concerns about media and suicide are nothing new. Such concerns are often referred to as the Werther Effect, named after the 18th-century novel that features the suicide death of a young man. At that time, people worried that reading the novel led to imitative deaths, though social science back then being what it was, the evidence was largely anecdotal and apocryphal.
Our mental health system is failing my son. So I asked experts how to fix it.
I am sitting on my 8-year-old son’s bedroom floor, hours after his 8 p.m. bedtime. How many hours? I’m not sure. I only know that I am trapped. My son is thrashing and screaming, and I am holding his wrists and legs to keep him from punching and kicking me. I have my own arms pinned under his elbows, occasionally shifting my position to prevent his teeth from finding my skin.
My other three children occasionally pop their heads in the room, and it takes every ounce of patience I can muster not to snap at them to leave me alone. They are scared. They’ve witnessed their brother’s episodes before, and they want their mother to reassure them that everything will be all right.
Only I don’t know that it will be.
My son is a sweet, fun-loving boy who loves jokes, reading and parkour. But he has a long list of mental health problems and skill deficits that make it nearly impossible for him to control his emotions. He suffers from extreme anxiety and depression, and he’s attempted suicide twice. He’s a bit like Bruce Banner. Kind and mild-mannered ordinarily, but you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.