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.
Suicide Prevention: 5 Key Clinical Strategies for Engaging At-Risk Individuals in Mental Health Treatment
Research has demonstrated that up to 84% of adults aged 25–64 years who completed suicide saw a health/mental health provider at least once in the year prior to death (Morrison & Laing, 2011), while approximately 65% of adult suicide attempters saw a healthcare professional in the month prior to the attempt (Ahmedani et al., 2015).
However, suicide attempters and completers often have difficulty engaging in and adhering to recommended outpatient mental health treatment and often drop out prematurely and/or very quickly after initiating treatment (Alonzo et al., 2016; Lizardi & Stanley, 2010; Stanley & Brown, 2012).
1 in 3 College Freshmen Faces Mental Health Woes
More than one in three first-year college students around the world struggle with a mental health disorder, new research suggests.
“The number of students who need treatment for these disorders far exceeds the resources of most counseling centers, resulting in a substantial unmet need,” said study author Randy Auerbach, of Columbia University in New York City.
“Colleges must take a greater urgency in addressing this issue,” he said in a news release from the American Psychological Association.
In the study, researchers analyzed data collected on nearly 14,000 students from 19 colleges in eight countries – Australia, Belgium, Germany, Mexico, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Spain and the United States.
The students answered questions designed to assess their mental health and identify common disorders, such as major depression, anxiety disorder and panic disorder.
More college students seeking out counseling – but suicide still a huge problem
It’s the second-leading cause of death for collegians
The number of U.S. college students utilizing campus counseling services has spiked during the last five years, an increase that underscores the mental health challenges they face.
But are students getting the help they need? And how prepared are they to make the adjustment from high school to college?
Mental health advocates on Tuesday posed those questions at a symposium hosted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to coincide with National Suicide Prevention Week.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death on college campuses. It’s an issue across the United States, but a particularly sensitive one in Philadelphia, where 14 University of Pennsylvania students have died by suicide since 2013.
Suicide prevention experts: What you say (and don’t say) could save a person’s life
For every person who dies by suicide, 280 people think seriously about it but don’t kill themselves, according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
There’s not one answer to what makes someone move from thinking about suicide to planning or attempting it, but experts say connectedness can help.
“Reaching out … can save a life,” said Jill Harkavy-Friedman, a clinical psychologist and vice president of research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Everybody can play a role.”
Public figures including politicians, authors and actors are appealing for change in the way the country talks about suicide.
Author Ian Rankin, London mayor Sadiq Khan, broadcaster Stephen Fry and DJ Lauren Laverne are among 130 signatories to a letter calling on the nation’s media to lead the way in transforming how suicide is covered.
The letter, which has been backed by cross-party MPs and mental health organisations Samaritans and Mind, states there should be an end to the use of the phrase “commit suicide”, which suggests suicide is a crime and suicidal thoughts are a sin, even though it has not been a crime in the UK since 1961.
This outdated form of words can imply suicide is a “selfish, cowardly, criminal or irreligious act rather than the manifestation of extreme mental distress and unbearable pain”, the letter states, and proposes the alternative description “died by suicide”.
When There Is a Mental Health Crisis in Your Dorm
As colleges face criticism for asking mentally ill students to take leaves of absence, former students discuss their struggles, and their roommates and dorm mates recount what it’s like living with them.
In the shadows of dormitories and dining halls on college campuses across America, students often murmur about their classmates’ reported suicide attempts and eating disorders. And sometimes those rumors are true.
Forty percent of college students in 2018 reported feeling “overwhelmingly anxious,” while 20 percent said they felt “so depressed it was difficult to function,” according to the National College Health Assessment. Thirteen percent said they had considered suicide in the last year.
Machines know when someone’s about to attempt suicide. How should we use that information?
A patient goes into the emergency room for a broken toe, is given a series of standardized tests, has their data fed into an algorithm, and—though they haven’t mentioned feeling depressed or having any suicidal thoughts—the machine identifies them as at high risk of suicide in the next week. Though the patient didn’t ask for help, medical professionals must now broach the subject of suicide and find some way of intervening.
This scenario, where an actionable diagnosis comes not from a doctor’s evaluation or family member’s concern, but an algorithm, is an imminent reality. Last year, data scientists at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, created a machine-learning algorithm (paywall) that uses hospital-admissions data, including age, gender, zip code, medication, and diagnostic history, to predict the likelihood of any given individual taking their own life.
In trials using data gathered from more than 5,000 patients who had been admitted to the hospital for either self-harm or suicide attempts, the algorithm was 84% accurate at predicting whether someone would attempt suicide in the next week, and 80% accurate at predicting whether someone would attempt suicide within the next two years.
Researchers look to brain images to predict who will attempt suicide
Therapists working with people at risk for suicide rely on the patient’s words to determine how serious they might be. They can’t look inside the patient’s mind to know for sure. Researchers in Pittsburgh are hoping to change that.
With the help of a $3.8 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, they will analyze the differences in brain scans of suicidal and non-suicidal young adults to detect those most at risk and develop personalized therapies. The ultimate goal is to use brain imaging to predict who will attempt suicide, researchers said.
U.S. Firearm Deaths By Suicide Are Staggering Compared To The Rest Of The World
Mass shootings in the U.S. get a lot of press, and rightly so. However, mass shootings and homicides aren’t the only way that people can lose their lives to gun violence. There’s one statistic having to do with firearm deaths that doesn’t get brought up as often, but it’s just as chilling — the U.S. has the second highest firearm death by suicide rate in the world, accounting for almost 45,000 people every year, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
America’s Suicide Crisis Is Worse Than We Thought
A new report says officials should be including more deaths from the country’s opioid epidemic.
Diabetes is a well-known health threat in the U.S., with rates that have reached epidemic levels in recent years. But now researchers are reporting that another scourge has surpassed it in terms of deadliness: suicides and deaths from drug overdoses.
Diabetes is officially ranked the seventh leading cause of death nationwide. Self-injury, as the combination of suicide and drug-related death is known, killed as many people as diabetes in 2014 and is continuing to accelerate. The primary consequence of this unchecked crisis will be decreasing U.S. life expectancy, said Ian Rockett, a professor of epidemiology at West Virginia University in Morgantown.
Feeling Suicidal, Students Turned to Their College. They Were Told to Go Home.
When Harrison Fowler heard about the counseling center at Stanford, where he enrolled as a freshman last fall, he decided to finally do something about the angst he had been struggling with for a long time.
The results were not what he had expected. Asked if he had ever considered suicide, he said yes. The center advised him to check himself into the hospital. From there, he was sent to a private outpatient treatment center, where he was prescribed an antidepressant that he said triggered horrible suicidal fantasies. It wasn’t long before he was back in the hospital, being urged to go home to Texas.
“No, I can’t go home,” Mr. Fowler, 19, recalled saying. “This is partly y’all’s fault for putting me on medication. I reached out for help and now I’m suddenly getting blamed for it.”
Can we save lives with a three-digit suicide prevention hotline?
In a culture that has normalized dieting and body weight fixation, it’s too easy to mistake eating disorders for a harmless phase, a voluntary choice, and just not that big of a deal. The stark reality is that eating disorders have among the highest mortality rates of any mental illness and these fatalities are often due to suicide.
With 30 million Americans of all ages and genders suffering — often silently — from an eating disorder, that is a lot of lives on the line. Fortunately, our nation’s top policymakers have just reduced one of the barriers to change, proposing an easier way to call for help.
This month, U.S. lawmakers enacted the National Suicide Prevention Hotline Improvement Act, which aims to designate a three-digit number, similar to 911, for those experiencing suicidal thoughts or dealing with broader mental health issues to connect to crisis support centers.
String of youth suicides in Rancho Cucamonga bring alarm, new focus on mental health training
After a string of suicides within the first two weeks of classes, Rancho Cucamonga school districts are refocusing their attention on mental health services and suicide prevention projects.
Four students who attended Rancho Cucamonga school districts—a 10-year-old boy, a 15-year-old girl, a 16-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy—died by suicide from Aug. 6 to Aug. 19, officials said this week.
“There is no greater tragedy than the death of a young person, and since the start of the school year, our Chaffey District community has been shaken by the loss of three students to suicide,” said Mathew Holton, superintendent of the Chaffey Joint Union High School District, in a message to parents.
Therapists were deployed to each school to assist grieving students and staff. A total of 18 marriage and family therapists, 54 counselors, 27 psychologists and five psychotherapists are available to students across the district’s 12 schools.
Suicide rates decline in summer and rise when school starts. Parents, teachers can help.
Jose Morales likes the excitement of the start of the school year.
Morales, who is 16 years old and will be a junior at Xavier High School in Appleton this fall, strives to go into his back-to-school preparations and the start of school with a positive attitude.
But as he gets deeper into the school year, he said, the stress starts to get to him.
Homework. Tests. Social drama.
When he thinks about that side of things, his feelings about the start of the year become more mixed.
“Every time the school year comes around, my mood drops,” Morales said. “And once the school year starts going, I feel less and less motivated.”
During his sophomore year at Appleton North High School, he went to the hospital when he became “too depressed” and began to struggle with suicidal thoughts.
Dodge City High School prints suicide prevention resources on student ID badges
With recent suicides among young people in Dodge City, faculty and staff at the high school say it the message they want students to know.
The high school issued students new ID badges this year. On the back, the message continues, “You have options. Help is available.”
Now, each student can also find the numbers to the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255), the Crisis Textline (741-741) or the Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386) all on back of their school ID badges–something they wear almost daily.
A traumatic brain injury may increase the risk of suicide, study says
Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability in young adults in the developed world. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. Though the reasons for any particular suicide are often inscrutable, research published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that at least a fraction of the blame could be placed on traumatic brain injuries.
Researchers found that of the nearly 7.5 million people who make up the population of Denmark, more than 34,500 deaths between 1980 and 2014 were by suicide. Approximately 10 percent of those who took their own lives had also suffered a medically documented traumatic brain injury. The statistical analysis was conducted using the Danish Cause of Death registry.
Typical kid behavior or a mental-health problem? It can be hard to decide.
Many mental illnesses first manifest in adolescence. So for parents, it’s often hard to separate the warning signs of mental illness from typically erratic teenage behavior.
Mary Rose O’Leary has shepherded three children into adulthood, and she teaches art and music to middle school students.
Despite her extensive personal and professional experience with teens, the Eagle Rock, Calif., resident admits she’s often perplexed by their behavior.
“Even if you have normal kids, you’re constantly questioning, ‘Is this normal?’ ” says O’Leary, 61.
Teenagers can be volatile and moody. They can test your patience, push your buttons and leave you questioning your sanity – and theirs.
Young children with psychotic symptoms and risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors: a research note
Suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) are prevalent among youth with psychotic disorders (PD) relative to the general population. Recent research now suggests that STBs may present during the prodromal phase of the disease, or the clinical high risk (CHR) state.
While this knowledge is important for the development of suicide prevention strategies in adolescent and adult populations, it remains unclear whether risk for suicide extends to children with or at risk for psychosis.
The current study is an extension of previous work assessing STBs in youth across the psychosis continuum. We examine STBs in 37 CHR and PD children ages 7–13 years old, and further explore the prodromal symptom correlates of STB severity among CHR children.
Kids’ Suicide Risk Tied Parents’ Religious Beliefs
Teens, especially girls, whose parents are religious may be less likely to die by suicide, no matter how they feel about religion themselves, new research suggests.
The lower suicide risk among those raised in a religious home is independent of other common risk factors, including whether parents suffered from depression, showed suicidal behavior or divorced, the Columbia University researchers said.
The study, however, does not prove that a religious upbringing prevents suicide, only that there is an association between the two.
“Momo” Suicide Game: Teens Targeted on WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube
Authorities in multiple countries, including the United States, have issued warnings about a new “game” spreading on social media called Momo that encourages people to physically harm or kill themselves.
The game asks Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp users to add to their contacts one of several numbers, according to CBS affiliate KXMD. The person behind the contact, known as the “controller,” then sends violent images and messages asking the person on the receiving end, or the “player,” to kill themselves and post images or videos of them doing so. The controller also often claims to know things about the player and threatens to release the information if he or she doesn’t do what the controller says, according to KXMD.
The avatar used in the game is a sculpted image of a woman with bulging eyes and a thin, creepy smile spreading from ear to ear. The work is taken from Japanese artist Midori Hayashi, who nicknamed the sculpture Momo. Hayashi is not in any way associated with the game.
In Russia, the game has allegedly been linked to at least 130 deaths, and Argentinian authorities are investigating whether a 12-year-old girl who recently killed herself was prompted to do so by the game, according to the Buenos Aires Times.
Mother Shares Son’s Suicide Story And Now Works To Help Save Others
One mother is sharing her son’s story and lives her life to prevent another life from being lost to suicide. If you know anyone suffering or you need someone to talk to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. That line is available 24/7. You can also text 741-741 for free.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Every 12 minutes, one person in this country dies as a result of self-harm. Symptoms can range from hopelessness to euphoria.
One mother is sharing her son’s story and lives her life to prevent another life from being lost to suicide.
“I believe that suicide is preventable and that there is help, there is help for all of us,” Helen Pridgen said.
In 2000, Helen Pridgen lost her son, Clay to suicide.
“Clay was outgoing through his youth up until early adulthood. He was 25 when he died, so we had a number of years to experience the person he was,” Pridgen said.
Suicide prevention on your smartphone
Suicide rates are hitting an all-time high in South Dakota. Numbers from last month show the state saw nearly a 45 percent increase in suicides. Minnesota saw a 40 percent increase and Iowa saw a 36 percent increase.
Everywhere you look you’ll see people on their phones. It provides us with easy access to not only information, but also help when we need it. That’s why in this growing social media age, apps like ‘notOk’ were designed so that support is just one touch away.
How Should the Media Cover Suicides? A New Study Has Some Answers
It’s no secret to mental health experts that exposure to suicide, either directly or through media and entertainment, may make people more likely to resort to suicidal behaviors themselves. The phenomenon even has a name: suicide contagion.
And a new paper, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, says some specific journalistic practices — such as including lots of details about a death by suicide, or glamorizing these incidents — may make suicide contagion worse.
“We’re not saying reporting on suicide is bad,” says Dr. Ayal Schaffer, a psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto and a co-author of the new study. “Our goal is not to blame journalists; it’s not to tell journalists how to do their jobs. But it is to provide a pretty strong research base to support specific guidelines about how reporting on suicide should be done.”
Media Reports of Celeb Suicides May Trigger ‘Copycat’ Tragedies
News reports on suicides may be quickly followed by a bump in suicide rates — especially if they contain details that sensationalize the tragedy, a new study finds.
The research adds to evidence of a phenomenon known as “suicide contagion.” It happens when vulnerable people identify with a person who died by suicide, and then see that route as a viable solution to their own problems.
Just last month, the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain sparked widespread media coverage, with many stories describing details of their suicides. That was despite guidelines from various medical groups, including the World Health Organization, that discourage journalists from revealing such details.
“We’ve known for many years that media reports of suicide seem to increase rates of suicide for a time afterward,” said lead researcher Dr. Mark Sinyor, a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto.
Suicide prevention method: question, persuade and refer
One of the myths about suicide, said Pam Leyda, is that once a person decides to do it, no one else can stop it.
“The fact is, suicide is the most preventable kind of death,” said Leyda. “Almost any positive action can safe a life.”
Leyda spoke Tuesday to a class of 11 people who had gathered to learn a method for preventing suicide based on three steps: question, persuade and refer. Some of those in the class had lost relatives and friends to suicide. Others were professionals from the fields of public health, media, counseling and ministry.
The educational film for the class, called Gatekeeper Training, said suicide claims an average of 75 Americans a day. Many more make unsuccessful attempts that can cause serious injury or lifelong disability.
How mental illnesses span generations and why they don’t have to
Nearly 1 in 5 American adults live with a mental illness. There has been much literature about how these disorders affect the sufferer’s well-being, but there is dismally little discussion of how the illness impacts those who rely on a mentally unstable parent for support, encouragement, and as a model of proper behavior. The truth is that these parents bequeath their children a legacy of emotional and social impairment that they will bring to their own parenting and interpersonal relationships.
In fact, a study published this year by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the children of parents with trauma in their childhood, putting them at risk for psychological and behavioral issues, were 4.2 times as likely to be diagnosed with an emotional disturbance disorder. This implies that children of mentally ill parents have a higher risk of developing mental illnesses themselves during their lifetimes.
Congress Just Passed a Bill Establishing a National Three-Digit Code for Suicide Prevention
A bill to establish a national three-digit code for suicide prevention passed the U.S. House of Representatives with near-unanimous accord on Monday.
H.R. 2345 sailed through the House on Monday after every single Senator voted in favor of a companion bill last October. It requires federal government agencies to “perform a cost and benefit analysis of the hotline’s creation and provide recommendations to improve the overall effectiveness of the current system,” as co-author Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) said in a statement.
The 911-like hotline would be staffed with trained mental health professionals ready to assist those in crisis.
Teen’s Suicide Prevention Notes Remind People “Your Life Matters”
Police in the United Kingdom are honoring a teenager after she posted inspiring suicide prevention notes on a bridge.
According to CBS News, Paige Hunter, 18, posted notes with uplifting and supportive messages on the Wearmouth Bridge in Sunderland designed to show people contemplating suicide that they aren’t alone.
The notes included messages like “your life matters” and “you’re a shining light in a dark world,” according to CBS News. After the notes reportedly helped prevent at least six people from attempting suicide, police are commending Paige for what they called an “innovative” way to help those in need.
Young people’s mental health: we can build a resilient generation
Prevention and early intervention could halve the number of people with lifelong mental health problems. Half of lifelong mental illness starts before the age of 14. What if we could change that? What if we could tackle the causes and reduce the incidence of enduring mental health problems?
Those are the questions Birmingham University’s mental health commission has been grappling with over the past 18 months. Our report and call to action launched this month.
Around one in four children and young people who need help with their mental health get a service. By 2021, that will rise to one in three and the picture is mixed across the country. We must do more to improve access to evidence-based mental health treatment and support. But this is not sufficient.
10 Things Suicide Attempt Survivors Want You to Know
Learning from the people who have contemplated suicide can help prevent future deaths.
Part of what’s so isolating and stigmatizing about having suicidal thoughts is that many people can’t relate to feeling such all-encompassing pain. They can’t imagine a scenario in which ending one’s life would ever be an option.
To foster greater empathy and understanding for what someone who is suicidal may be going through, it’s helpful to turn to people who have been there: attempt survivors.
“If we are serious about preventing suicide, we must learn from those who have experience with suicide,” according to The Way Forward, a report by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. “The people with the most intimate information about suicidal thoughts, feelings, and actions are those who have lived through such experiences. We all have an opportunity to learn from those with lived experience around suicide so we can do better in the future to foster hope and help people find meaning and purpose in life.”
Youth Suicide Prevention Video for Parents
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for youth ages 15-17 and 3rd leading cause of death for youth ages 10-14. One of the most stressful challenges that parents often face is realizing that they will not always know when something is wrong with their child.
In response, several Georgia organizations have come together to produce a public service announcement (PSA) aimed at adults. The adults featured in this PSA share their stories and journey with their children who have considered or attempted suicide. These are parents, siblings, and experts who have seen this crisis firsthand and want to raise awareness for others to continuously seek help for children in crisis.
Georgia Child Fatality Review, July 17 2018
Teen suicide risk may be lower with intense team-based therapy
Adolescents who have harmed themselves or tried to commit suicide may be less likely to do it again when they participate in an intense therapy program focused on both individual and family treatment, a U.S. study suggests.
The research focused on what’s known as dialectical behavior therapy. This involves a combination of individual sessions for teens and their parents as well as family counseling. The goals include helping teens eliminate behavior that leads to self-harm, suicide, or reduced quality of life; teaching skills like mindfulness and emotion regulation; and helping teens and families change behaviors.
Predicting Suicide Attempts and Suicide Deaths Using Electronic Health Records: New model substantially outperforms existing suicide risk tools
Suicide accounted for nearly 45,000 deaths in the United States in 2016. Unfortunately, tools currently used to predict an individual’s risk of a suicide attempt or dying by suicide, such as brief self-report measures, have only moderate accuracy.
Now, researchers have developed a new prediction model that substantially outperforms existing self-report tools. The study, supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), was published online on May 24, 2018, in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
A Carmel High School student’s suicide raises questions over how schools discipline kids
One year and eight months later, Chris and Marilyn McCalley are still haunted by the final hours of their 17-year-old son’s life.
They know that Patrick, then a junior at Carmel High School, left for school Oct. 6, 2016, excited about an email from the Air Force, an option he was considering after graduation.
They know sometime around noon he was called to the assistant principal’s office and told he’d be suspended over a “racially insensitive” Snapchat he sent a few friends that trivialized lynching. He signed an affidavit the school gave him, apologizing and calling it a “stupid and ignorant joke.”
They know that before 3:36 p.m., about half an hour after being escorted out of the building, Patrick decided to kill himself. He was declared dead by suicide in the hospital at 5:07 p.m. that day.
But there’s a lot they will likely never know. What prompted Patrick to take his own life? His family said he was a happy teen who avoided trouble and excelled at school.
And there is another unanswerable question on their minds: Was there something — anything — the school could have or should have done differently that might have altered what happened that day and prevent it from ever happening again?
Weeks after what would have been Patrick’s graduation day, the McCalleys are sharing their story to start a conversation about how schools can better balance mental health and discipline.
A Simple Emergency Room Intervention Can Help Cut Suicide Risk
Many people who attempt suicide end up in an emergency room for immediate treatment. But few of those suicide survivors get the follow-up care they need at a time when they are especially likely to attempt suicide again.
Now, a study shows that a simple intervention conducted by staff in emergency departments can reduce the risk of future attempts. The intervention involves creating a safety plan for each patient and following up with phone calls after discharge.
“It reduced the odds of suicidal behavior by half,” says Barbara Stanley, a psychologist at Columbia University and the lead author of the study. “That’s a phenomenal difference.”
The study, which was published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry, included 1,200 patients at five Veterans Affairs hospitals around the country. The findings offer a way for hospitals and clinics to help reduce the rising numbers of death by suicide across the country.
Teen Suicide: How to understand and reduce risk
The recent suicides of public figures like Kate Spade, as well as growing awareness of non-suicidal self-injury, have triggered conversations about how much more we need to learn about who is at risk, and how we can help prevent and treat self-harm and suicidality.
Parents of teens in particular may be thoughtful and concerned. Understanding risk factors and warning signs is among the most important things parents can do to support their teens.
In addition to knowing that mental illness, high levels of stressful life events, and a prior history of suicide attempts put individuals at risk, other psychological risk factors that we sometimes write off as “normal teen stuff” can also be warning signs.
While the storm and stress of adolescence can be expected, pay close attention to whether your teen is showing changes—more intense and frequent bouts—of irritability, sadness and depression, a strong sense of failure, major conflict with family or peers, or the major loss of loved one or experience of humiliation or shame. Researchers and clinicians are also learning more about the role of these risk factors.
Language Is Key to Easing the Stigma of Mental Illness: Public Figures Must Do Better in Their Choice of Words
It’s difficult to overstate the persistence or harm of the stigma of mental health issues for the 1 in 5 Americans who suffer from them and their families who care for them. In spite of the dedicated, long-standing work of individual activists and charitable organizations seeking to demystify and normalize mental illness and treatment, many individuals still choose to suffer alone and in silence rather than risk the shame and humiliation of being labeled mentally ill, “crazy,” or worse.
It’s hard to blame them when influential figures use powerful platforms to equate mental health conditions with such negative attributes as weakness, naiveté, and even stupidity. Just recently, Rudy Giuliani told attendees at a political rally that those doing their job of investigating President Trump are “Wackadoodles.”
He further stated, with exaggerated wide eyes and hands waving around his head, that such individuals “need a psychiatrist” and “should go to Bellevue,” a hospital in New York City with a well-known psychiatric unit.
Such comments should not be taken lightly, excused, or brushed under the rug.
Preventing Suicide Among College Students
Privacy rules that keep colleges from notifying parents of a student’s distress may be costing lives. Some solutions include granting permission in advance or having a friend alert the family.
This column is a plea to all current and future college students and their families to deal openly and constructively with emotional, social and academic turmoil that can sometimes have heartbreaking — and usually preventable — consequences.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death, after traffic accidents, among college students. For most, it’s their first time living away from home, away from the support and comfort usually provided by good friends and family members. The adjustment can be overwhelming for some students, especially those who don’t make friends easily or who have difficulty meeting the demands of challenging college courses.
Sadly, parents are often unaware of the struggles facing their college-age children, and a federal privacy law often prevents colleges from notifying parents of serious student difficulties even when faculty members and administrators know about them.
Consider the recent suicide of a Hamilton College student whose parents were unaware of his severe distress even though several professors and the dean knew he was going through “a complete crash and burn,” as one put it.
TO OUR READERS: In December 2017 we published a link to a New York Times op-ed piece that was critical of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s position on the role of guns in suicide (see below). In the interests of fairness we feel it is important to offer the AFSP’s own words on Firearms and Suicide Prevention.
As we begin 2018, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention embarks on the next phase of Project 2025, the first, large-scale initiative focused on reducing the suicide rate in the U.S. Suicide is a major public health issue with a 25 percent increase over the past two decades; suicide remains the 10th leading cause of death with the rate continuing to increase. As the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, AFSP has set an imperative to use new evidence-based approaches to save as many lives as possible through Project 2025.
Project 2025 identifies a set of critical areas, based on in-depth analysis, where the most lives can be saved in the shortest amount of time. In the critical area of suicide by firearm, we learned that educating firearms owners about suicide prevention has the potential to save more than 9,000 lives by 2025 if implemented nationwide.
We know the facts well:
•Half of all suicides in the U.S. are by firearm
•Suicide risk increases when lethal means are readily accessible
•Research shows that having a firearm in the home increases the risk of suicide
To date, efforts to reduce suicide by gun have largely failed – with 23,000 lives lost each year – we must try a new approach. There is promising evidence that providing suicide prevention training for those who influence a specific community can reduce the suicide risk for that community. Research also tells us that by educating the firearms-owning community about suicide risk, safe storage and removing access to lethal means, including firearms, when someone is at risk, we can reduce suicide. In fact, this approach is called for in our country’s 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.
This is why AFSP made a strategic decision to work with the firearms-owning community on suicide prevention education. By working with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, we are systematically disseminating suicide prevention education to thousands of gun retail stores, shooting ranges and gun owners nationwide. This education focuses on risk factors and warning signs, and actions that must be taken: temporary removal of firearms from the home during periods of risk, safe storage (locked and unloaded) at all times; and denying sale when appropriate.
Importantly, AFSP receives no funding from NSSF, firearms manufacturers or gun lobbying organizations, nor is AFSP providing funds to NSSF or similar groups. As an organization that welcomes all people with diverse views, we do not currently engage in any political action related to gun policy.
We are taking an unprecedented, large-scale step to reduce suicide by firearm and save as many lives as possible. In 2018, we look forward to working with additional partners to help extend the reach of this critical Project 2025 area.
The original post from December, 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.
Deaths From Suicide: A Look at 18 States
A Special Report with Data from the National Violent Death Reporting System, 2013-2014
Established in 1993, the Safe States Alliance is a national non-profit organization and professional association whose mission is to strengthen the practice of injury and violence prevention. Safe States is the only national non-profit or-ganization and professional association that represents the diverse and ever-expanding group of professionals who comprise the field of injury and violence prevention.
Safe States • www.safestates.org • February 2017
The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team – whose investigative work was the subject of the acclaimed 2015 film Spotlight – has produced a report on the current state of mental health care in Massachusetts, The Desperate and the Dead: Families in Fear. Closing psychiatric hospitals seemed humane, but the state failed to build a system to replace them, June 23, 2016.
Children’s Hospitals Admissions for Suicidal Thoughts or Actions Double During Past Decade – Report from the Pediatric Academic Societies.
Suicide Rates After Discharge From Psychiatric Facilities
IMPORTANCE: High rates of suicide after psychiatric hospitalization are reported in many studies, yet the magnitude of the increases and the factors underlying them remain unclear.
OBJECTIVES: To quantify the rates of suicide after discharge from psychiatric facilities and examine what moderates those rates.
JAMA Psychiatry, June 01, 2017
The World Health Organization and the International Association for Suicide Prevention have released an updated version of their guide for media professionals, Preventing Suicide. It’s a 21 page resource for responsible reporting about suicide and includes a section on the scientific evidence of the impact media has on suicidal behavior.
Highly recommended reading for anyone who cares about this issue. If you come across insensitive or inappropriate reporting on suicide, consider sending this guide to the editors and reporters.
“13 Reasons Why” – Waiting for the Light,
Cursing the Bread
The Netflix adaptation of the young adult novel 13 Reasons Why has stirred up debate about how this topic is covered across media – especially in popular fiction.
Here on the Tommy Fuss News page we’ve covered this topic several times:
City teen’s suicide prevention video goes viral – 13 Reasons Why Not
– The Journal Gazette, June 3, 2017
Is Suicide Contagion Real?
– Psych Central, May 19, 2017
How To React When Your Friend Is Talking About Suicide
– Refinery29, May 5, 2017
Educators and school psychologists raise alarms about 13 Reasons Why
– The Washington Post, May 2, 2017
Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and the trouble with dramatising suicide
– The Guardian, April 26, 2017
How 13 Reasons Why gets suicide wrong: Voices
– USA Today, April 18, 2017
To these we’d like to add this publication from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Tips for Parents to talk with their Children about 13 Reasons Why and Suicide.
Critics have pointed out that the framing device – the central character Hannah sends 13 cassette tapes to friends and others detailing how they contributed to her decision to end her life – is not the typical course of the mental illness and stressors that result in suicide.
[May I be forgiven for suggesting that a contemporary teenager using a cassette tape recorder instead of a smartphone to make and distribute their post-suicide diatribes seems a wild anachronism. Akin to having Hannah send the info via telegram. The teens I know today would be hard pressed to identify a cassette tape much less use one.]
13 Reasons Why has been accused of romanticizing suicide, a claim that also could be made against the most famous teen suicides in all of literature: 15 year old Romeo Montague and 13 year old Juliet Capulet.
The arch of the 13 Reasons Why story also defines suicide as a means of revenge against those who Hannah felt betrayed and ostracized her. This, researchers and professionals tell us, is almost never the case in real life. Depression and anxiety are mental illnesses that, left untreated (or improperly treated), can result in suicide.
It is not the actions of others that is the primary cause of suicidal ideation. It is a self-generated condition. Externally many suicides can appear successful in all the ways we measure success.
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
‘Good-morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
– Edwin Arlington Robinson