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I've been spending a lot of time over at promoteprevent.org recently. www.promoteprevent.org is a part of Education Development Center, Inc.(EDC)—a leading global nonprofit organization established in 1958 that designs, delivers and evaluates innovative programs to address some of the world’s most urgent challenges in education, health, and economic development.
They follow four guiding principles:
Visit their site and get involved with the incredible work they are doing.
Christian Adamek, a 15-year-old from Huntsville, Alabama, hung himself days after he was arrested for streaking at a high school football game.
This article is a dramatic example of the changing times we live in and the harsh perceptions we're faced with.
After Adamek’s arrest, the teenager was expelled from school and faced charges of public lewdness. If convicted he could have been placed on the a sex-offender registry.
For the full article...
Turning Suicide Statistics Around
Great article from Phil Ferolito / Yakima Herald-Republic.
HARRAH — At best, the memory is a vague dream, said 15-year-old Lilia Vera.
She was bleeding from her wrist when she put a noose around her neck at her home in Harrah. Everything was a blur. She remembers waking up in her brother’s arms as he said: “No, no.”
She was rushed to a hospital and later taken to a mental health facility in Yakima, where she stayed for a few days before returning home.
Overcome by depression and feelings of hopelessness, Vera nearly became another statistic in a growing problem in Yakima County and on the Yakama Reservation in particular: suicide.
Read the rest HERE...
While DC Comics didn't mean to, they've become an example of the ignorance a majority of people have about the seriousness of suicide. Recently the comic book publisher announced a contest, “DC Entertainment’s Open Talent Search", to draw in new artistic talent. The contest included drawing several panels of character Harley Quinn in outlandish circumstances; the last of these circumstances had Quinn naked, in a bathtub, surrounded by blow dryers, toasters, and other electronic appliances, apparently preparing to kill herself. This was done right before National Suicide Prevention Week.
As you can imagine, this didn't sit well with the general public and advocates for suicide awareness.
Jimmy Palmiotti, who is writing the ongoing Harley Quinn series, attempted to apologize for the mess up saying, "I should have put it clearly in the description that it was supposed to be a dream sequence with Amanda and I talking to Harley and giving her a hard time. I should have also mentioned we were thinking a Mad magazine /Looney Tunes approach was what we were looking for...I am sorry for those who took offense, our intentions were always to make this a fun and silly book that broke the 4th wall, and head into issue 1 with a ongoing story/adventure that is a lot like the past Powergirl series we did. I hope all the people thinking the worst of us can now understand that insulting or making fun of any kind was never our intention."
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention had already voiced their disapproval; calling the contest "insensitive and potentially dangerous," and decried their choice to not go with a more hopeful message.
DC came out again and said, "The purpose of the talent search was to allow new artists an opportunity to draw a single page of a 20-page story. True to the nature of the character, the entire story is cartoony and over-the-top in tone, as Harley Quinn breaks the 4th Wall and satirizes the very scenes she appears in. DC Entertainment sincerely apologizes to anyone who may have found the page synopsis offensive and for not clearly providing the entire context of the scene within the full scope of the story."
Does DC truly understand why the uproar over the panel or is this a PR ploy to ease the tension? Does it matter?
Suicide is too often used as a punchline or lightly referenced with little to no thought given to the weight it carries. A comic book company, who ideally caters to younger viewers, may not know that this generation is inundated with violent images. On top of the that, cyber bullying is in the headlines more and more in reference to suicide. When an image of a comic book character is shown in a cartoony way, that sends a message.
This is no longer a case of "Oh, it's just a comic book." We live in a time where we have a responsibility to understand what are youth are going through. DC Comics would do well to publish a special suicide awareness story. Not as a way to say they are sorry but because it's necessary and the right thing to do.
The Story of Martin Manley.
Martin Manley was a sports reporter and statistician in Kansas City. Before his suicide this month, he spent over a year building a vast website. The site gives Manley's reasons for killing himself and recounts much of his life.
A fascinating look at someone's life and the thought process of suicide. Head over to CNN to read the full story.
A great article by Boston Globe Correspondent Karen Weintraub talking about how the Military is monitoring social media to cut the suicide rate.
"Nearly every day, an active-duty service member takes his or her own life, causing waves of grief among families and peers. And each day, on average, 22 military veterans in the United States commit suicide. Roughly one in five Americans who commit suicide is or was in the service. The military has been working aggressively since 2007 to try to stem suicides, but everyone agrees there will be no easy fix.
Now, however, big-data specialists, including the Newton software firm Attivio Inc., are collaborating with military suicide experts to try to address the problem by using social media to monitor veterans for signs of despondency.
The specialists said they are identifying key words and phrases that suggest someone is spiraling downward, while developing an analytics system that could examine thousands of online posts and alert medical specialists and family members when a veteran’s comments indicate he or she is at risk of committing suicide.
Relatively few people come out and say they are suicidal. But by tracking the postings of veterans who agree to participate in the system, organizers hope eventually to identify those at high risk, and to intervene early enough to make a difference.
The program, called the Durkheim Project after the man known as the father of sociology, Emile Durkheim, is developing algorithms to determine which phrases or combination of phrases are most predictive of suicide attempts.
“It’s the words they are using that’s the reliable signal,” said Chris Poulin, the director and principal investigator of the Durkheim Project and a predictive-analytics expert.
Although Poulin would not reveal the precise phrases the Durkheim Project has identified, suicide researcher Craig Bryan, a University of Utah psychologist who is advising the project, said that the coded language of the suicidal often includes phrases such as “You’d be better off without me,” “I messed everything up,” and “I can never be forgiven for my mistakes.”
Moreover, behaviors such as buying a gun or giving away belongings can help to identify at-risk veterans and are often reported on social media, Bryan said.
In the first phase of the project, which was just completed, Poulin and colleagues developed a language-driven predictive model to estimate suicide risk.
They based their research on doctors’ notes from the records of three groups of veterans: those who had committed suicide, those who had psychiatric challenges but were not suicidal, and those with no apparent psychiatric issues.
From the doctors’ notes, Poulin said, it was possible to distinguish between the three groups.
Those whose psychiatric problems were not life-threatening tended to talk about their eyesight, for example, or their preoccupations and personal hygiene. Those who were healthy talked to their doctors about muscle or joint pain or eating disorders. And the suicidal discussed their agitation and fears, along with their need for painkillers.
In the next phase of the Durkheim Project, Poulin and others will test the predictive quality of those insights among as many as 100,000 service members and veterans who agree to have their social media and mobile posts shared.
This kind of varied language, as well as the shorthand used on social media, can be extremely challenging to analyze, said Sid Probstein, the chief technology officer for Attivio, which is responsible for that analysis.
How those phrases change over time can also be a warning sign, Probstein said, so a huge amount of data has to be gathered from text messages, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets and analyzed.
This kind of analysis of so-called “natural language” has been possible only recently, Probstein said, “so it’s really only in the last decade that you could imagine doing something like the Durkheim Project.”
Facebook, which helped debug the program, will assist in recruiting volunteers, Poulin said. The military provided a two-year start-up grant for the research.
Eventually, those whom the project identifies as at-risk will be automatically linked to resources in their area to get help, and their support network will be notified.
Users will be able to opt in and out of the system, so their privacy will not be compromised by the data analysis without their knowledge, said Poulin, who also worked with former colleagues at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.
“You don’t just get the person to opt in, but you get their friends and family to opt in, and let family know this person is suffering,” Poulin said.
If they do not have such support in their lives, there are scripts that can be read to at-risk people that have been shown to help, he said.
Even people who feel alone will leave a footprint on Facebook or via a text, Poulin said. “Their social network may be very small, but not so small that they don’t use a phone,” said Poulin.
Bryan, associate director of the National Center for Veterans’ Studies at the University of Utah, said the pressures on the military have increased exponentially over the past decade, as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on and downsizing has meant service members doing more with less, increasing their stress and suicide risk, both during their service and after retirement.
Multiple deployments also take their toll on service members, who may be away from home for most of six or seven straight years, said Kelly Posner, director of the Center for Suicide Risk Assessments at Columbia University.
In combat, service members are distracted by the urgency of their tasks. Now that the wars are winding down and they are back home for good, “they’re having to face what they saw, what they did, what they didn’t do, their unmet mental health risks, their families that have not been together,” she said.
Suicide, she said, is the fourth-leading cause of death for those ages 18 to 64, and probably the most preventable, “but we need to keep working hard.”
By using observable behavior, the Durkheim Project may help the invisible become visible, Bryan said.
“That is really one of the missing links in suicide prevention, both inside and outside military.”"
Suicide & Guns
Liz Szabo wrote an article about the relationship between guns and youth suicides. It brings up plenty of questions and is a good starting point for discussion.
Study: Many suicidal kids have access to guns at home
Nearly 20% of children and young people at risk for suicide say there's a gun in their home, new research shows. And among these youth, 15% know how to get their hands on both the gun and bullets.
"That's a volatile mix: kids at risk and the means to complete suicide," said Stephen Teach, who will present the study Monday at a meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Washington.
Pediatricians devoted special attention to gun violence at the meeting, including a special symposium Saturday. Thomas McInerny, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, also focused on gun violence in his plenary
More than 1,900 young people in the U.S. ages 5 to 19 committed suicide in 2010. Nearly half of these suicides involved firearms, said Matthew Miller, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who spoke at the symposium. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among teens ages 15 to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In Teach's study, doctors interviewed 524 young people ages 10 to 21 who were treated in pediatric emergency rooms, either for a physical or psychiatric health issue.
These findings may actually underestimate the real risk, said Miller, who wasn't involved in the survey.
Research suggests that about one-third of children live in homes with a firearm, Miller said. And about 1.5 million children live in a household where guns are kept loaded and unlocked, Miller said. It's possible that some young people interviewed for the survey were unaware that their parents own guns.
Guns are the most lethal form of suicide. According to the CDC, 85% of suicide attempts with guns prove fatal, compared with 1% to 2% of attempts made by slashing one's wrists or taking pills.
Reducing teens' access to guns can be life-saving, Miller said. Studies show that many teen suicide attempts are impulsive. One-fourth of teens who survived a suicide attempt said they thought of suicide just five minutes before making the attempt.
For many people, suicide is a passing urge. Fewer than 10% of those who survive a suicide attempt go on to kill themselves, Miller said.
The findings underscore the importance of screening young people for depression and suicidal thoughts, as well asking about guns in the home, said Teach, associate chief of emergency medicine at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Teach and his colleagues have developed a four-item questionnaire that can be used to screen all teens who come into the ER or primary practice clinics.
Screening all teens is important, because up to 40% of youths who kill themselves have no known mental illness, said study co-author Jeffrey Bridge, an associate professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University. In the survey, doctors found that nearly half of young ER patients with psychiatric complaints were at risk for suicide, as were about 10% of those who had a medical or surgical issue.
According to research by the CDC, 8% of high school students have attempted suicide in the past year. In comparison, less than 1% of adults ages 18 to 54 have attempted suicide in the past 12 months.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that doctors ask children's families about guns in the house and talk about ways to keep kids safe, McInerny said.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation agrees about keeping guns secured, spokesman Bill Brassard said. Parents should store firearms locked, unloaded and stored separately from ammunition, which also should be locked, he said.
Research shows that keeping a gun in the home increases the risk of suicide by nearly five times, Miller said. Yet educating parents about the risk of guns and suicide can help.
In a survey of 106 parents of severely depressed adolescents, doctors asked if there were guns in the home and, if so, counseled parents about safety.
Two years later, 27% of the parents who received the counseling had taken the guns out of their homes. Among parents who weren't counseled -- because they didn't own guns at the time of the interview -- 17% acquired guns.
In the past two years, six states have considered bills to prevent doctors from asking about guns in the home or recording that information into medical records. Only Florida's bill passed. That law never went into effect,
however, because it was blocked by a judge.
Ending the Cycle.
A great article in the Manila Bulleting by Rhea Bernardino on ending the cycle of suicide.
Last March 16, the nation was rocked by the tragic death of University of the Philippines-Manila student Kristel Tejada who decided to end her life.
The 16-year-old Behavioral Science freshman’s dreams of becoming a doctor were crushed when she was forced to file a leave of absence from UP Manila for not being able to pay her tuition balance. She drank silver jewelry cleaner.
Her death sparked outrage and calls from the UP community, youth sector and even from lawmakers for a change in the payment system of the state university. Subsequently, the UP Manila administration has decided to lift their “no late payment” policy.
But while Kristel’s death paved the way for the review of alleged restrictive and repressive policies and reforms in the public educational system, it also became a precursor of a series of suicides by students who were also
encountering problems with their studies.
One was 14-year old Lee Young Gunay who shot a bullet through his head in his parents’ room in Batangas City. He was reportedly bullied by his classmates in Saint Bridget College where he was a high school sophomore. Lee was also said to have been suffering from depression after failing his Math class.
Two weeks after, two more students from Batangas City committed suicide. Like Lee, Don Benedict Pamintuan and Daveson Beron also used a gun to end their misery. College freshman Don shot himself for failing four of his subjects in De La Salle University-Dasmarinas. He was set to transfer to Batangas State University (BSU) the next school year. Daveson, on the other hand, found out that he was not included in the list of graduates at the BSU where he was a Mechanical Engineering student and so he shot himself in the head in his own room.
These string of suicides have alarmed various sectors, especially psychologists who believe that the lack of awareness on depression and suicide and its preventive measures hampered the help that they could have gotten.
Dr. Eleanor Ronquillo, one of the resource persons for psychiatry of the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (NGF), says that depression is “highly curable” and that suicide is “highly preventable.”
The Natasha Goulbourn Foundation was founded by fashion designer Jean Goulbourn in memory of her daughter Natasha who suffered from depression and died in 2002. Since its inception in 2007, NGF has been working to spread awareness about depression in the Philippines to prevent a similar tragedy from
DEPRESSION AND SUICIDE
One could be in a crowded room full of depressed people but would never notice it.
“They may just be like you and me,” Dr. Ronquillo describes people who are suffering from the mental illness. “They may be well-dressed, walking well,” and when they start to speak with her, ultimately they would know that “something is wrong.” The WHO, she says, considers suicide as a major public health problem. “One person dies every 16 seconds so that translates into an estimated one million people dying from suicide every year.”
The first step towards treating depression is awareness, according to NGF.
“Depression does not depend on the weight of someone’s problems, or on the failure of weakness of a person. But rather, it is disorder,” points out Dr. Ronquillo who has counseled various people aged 10 to 82.
According to her, when the triggering factor comes, the chemicals in the brain which influence emotions change and result in an imbalance.
“A suicide does not happen immediately just because of one incident. There are many factors which lead up to that decision. It may just be that Kristel’s failure to pay her tuition is the triggering factor for her demise,” she says. Other factors may include lack of social and family support, a person’s personality.
Depression, she adds, can also be hereditary.
For a suicide to happen, depression should be present in that person. However, there are exceptions when people commit suicide due to psychosis or when they are under the influence of drugs.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Depression is sometimes mistaken as an act of attention-seeking. But Ronquillo says these people really need the attention and all the help they can get.
People should be on the lookout for persons who verbalize their intentions of dying, those who have sudden withdrawal syndromes and abrupt mood changes, and those who engage in risky activities as they may be suffering from depression and may lead toward suicide.
“They would say ‘Pray for me.’ Or ‘I’m going away.’ Some even lock themselves in their rooms, not wanting to talk to anybody. Sometimes they would ask where to buy guns or they would collect pills or get drunk and drive very fast at night,” she says.
This was evident with Kristel and Don Benedict, who left suicide notes for their families.
Dr. Ronquillo also enumerates three factors for a suicide to be possible. First, the person must experience a “deep, aching, psychological pain.” Second is that there should be a doable method of suicide present, and lastly, the person must have guts.
“That is why some result to drinking (alcohol) because it gives them the guts.”
The copycat syndrome was speculated by Dr. Ronquillo as maybe the reason why there were more suicide cases after Kristel.
“They imitate what they see. Like with Kristel, they see that and they identify with her so they copy what she did. It’s like idolizing one person. This is dangerous because teenagers have that kind of vulnerability and
impulsiveness. It’s because in our brain, we have the thinking part and the emotional part. The adolescents have a developed emotional part but not yet the thinking part,” she explains.
Dr. Ronquillo says that these copycats could have thought that Kristel was lucky because her problems were over.
A FAMILY PROBLEM
Like all aspects, treatment should start with the family who should also consider one of its member’s problem as their own concern.
“A family member should say ‘we.’ ‘Let us go and see how we can get help.’ It should be ‘we’ instead of just the person with the problem. When one has suicidal tendencies, we recommend hospitalization to protect the person from himself,” she says.
The family should also constantly reassure the person that they love and accept him as depressed people often feel unloved and rejected. A suicidal person should always have someone with him 24 hours a day, she advises.
Once the family’s care for the person is assured, that’s when the foundation comes in.
“The foundation conducts advocacies and seminars to raise awareness among people. They maintain a hotline which should be called by people when there is a crisis, to prevent suicide from happening. The hotline is a brief crisis intervention. Before the end of the conversation, they refer the person to a therapist.”
Dr. Ronquillo says a depressed person usually undergoes three levels of coping. The first is the biological level where he should be able to take care of himself. He should get eight to 10 hours of sleep, exercise, eat the right
kind of food, and maintain a balanced diet.
In the psychological level, the person must not dwell anymore on his problems. The highest form of that level is the spiritual sense. “When all else is lost, and that remains, the person is okay.” However, she says the spiritual
factor does not work when the person is experiencing “major depression” because of the chemical imbalances in the brain. Even priests commit suicide.
“No one is exempt. No one is immune. It is like you can’t pull yourself out from the situation you’re in,” she says.
Surrounding themselves with people, nature and the world comprises the third level which is the social level.
Dr. Ronquillo says the family of the suicide victim may also get depressed as a result of the tragedy sooner or later so they also need intervention.
As with Kristel’s suicide, she said that it has happened and that no one was to blame.
“None should be blamed; not even UP, not even the government, the manufacturers of the chemical, the parents, the persons who bully her, nor the teachers who did not give her an admission. No one and not even herself. Some people who have the automatic reaction to point their fingers at someone should avoid this,” she stresses.
Dr. Ronquillo says that the family should be able to get over it, move on, and indulge in activities where they can bond together.
(The NGF has also teamed up with the World Health Organization, Department of Health, Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development as well as educational institutions such as University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University and Miriam College in maintaining the Information and Crisis Intervention Center (ICIC) HOPELINE. The telephone hotline is accessible 24 hours a day, for people who may need help. It works on a referral system: those who man the phone lines assist the callers and refer them to counseling centers and hospitals. The hotline numbers are (632) 804-HOPE (4673), 0917-558-HOPE (4673), 0917-852-HOPE (4673) 2919 (toll-free number for GLOBE and TM subscribers)
Precipitating Factors in Suicide
A collection of hope from a number of people.