NEWS about Suicide

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.


December, 2017


NJ Girl Who Killed Herself Saw Story About Another Child’s Suicide: Sources

Investigators said they are still trying to determine what drove an 8-year-old New Jersey girl to suicide a week before her birthday, but sources close to the investigation said she had seen a story on Facebook about another girl killing herself in a similar manner beforehand.

Essex County prosecutors said they’re trying to determine if Imani McCray was copying what she had read about the death of 10-year-old Colorado girl Ashawnty Davis, or if she hanged herself in a case of tragic playacting at her home in Vailsburg on Sunday night. 

NBC 4 New York, December 12, 2017


Teen suicides are reaching record highs, forcing schools to ‘break the silence’

Stigma and guilt. Privacy and liability. Fear of copycats.

For many reasons, teen suicide and its prevention have long been kept out of the lesson plans of the nation’s schools.

But with deaths rising to record numbers in Missouri and elsewhere, area educators are beginning to open up the topic for discussion.

That’s by law, in many cases. Not necessarily by desire.

The Kansas City Star, December 10, 2017


Sifting Through a Life After Suicide

During a support-group meeting for people left behind by suicide, Hope Litoff realized she was among a group of collectors.

“We all had storage spaces of our dead person,” said Ms. Litoff, a New York film editor whose sister, Ruth, an artist and photographer, committed suicide in 2008 at the age of 42. “We all had the same feelings. We had saved every single thing. The items themselves were too precious to part with, but at the same time, too painful to look at.”

As Ms. Litoff thought about her ability to keep emotional distance in her work, it occurred to her that perhaps by making a film about her sister’s life and her possessions that were packed in a storage space, she could sort through all of it

The New York Times, December 7, 2017


Parenting behaviors linked to suicide among adolescents

Junior high school-aged children at significantly higher risk than peers when parents are not emotionally responsive.

How often do you tell your kids they did a good job? Do you say you are proud of them? Do you help with homework? Are you emotionally engaged with your kids?

A fresh look at a federally sponsored 2012 national study shows a significant link between parent’s behaviors and thoughts of suicide among adolescents, according to a presentation given by two University of Cincinnati professors at the 2017 American Public Health Association conference.

Their findings showed that children between the ages of 12 and 17 are significantly more likely to contemplate, plan and attempt suicide when their parents do not engage in certain behaviors that demonstrate to their children that they care about them. “Kids need to know that someone’s got their back, and unfortunately, many of them do not. That’s a major problem,” King said.

ScienceDaily, December 5, 2017


A 10-year-old’s schoolyard fight was posted on social media. She hanged herself two weeks later.

Ashawnty Davis wanted to be a WNBA star.

But after a video of the 10-year-old fighting another girl was posted to social media, Ashawnty was bullied, her family said.

The attacks brought on a despair so crushing that her basketball dream — and any other chance of happiness — felt impossible, relatives said.

So the girl from Aurora, Colo., hanged herself Nov. 16. She died Wednesday after spending nearly two weeks on life support at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Ashawnty was a fifth-grader at Sunrise Elementary School who brought “joy to everyone,” her father, Anthony Davis, told Denver’s Fox affiliate.

But something changed after her first fight in late October, which her parents said happened after Ashawnty confronted a girl who had been bullying her.

The Washington Post, December 1, 2017


November, 2017


FSU researcher finds link between excessive screen time and suicide risk

New research presents compelling evidence that the more time teenagers spend on smartphones and other electronic screens, the more likely they are to feel depressed and think about, or attempt, suicide.

Florida State University Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor Thomas Joiner, who co-authored a study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, said screen time should be considered a modern-day risk factor for depression and suicide.

“There is a concerning relationship between excessive screen time and risk for death by suicide, depression, suicidal ideation and suicidal attempts,” said Joiner, who conducted the research with psychology Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. “All of those mental health issues are very serious. I think it’s something parents should ponder.”

Florida State University, November 30, 2017


Facebook rolls out AI to detect suicidal posts before they’re reported

This is software to save lives. Facebook’s new “proactive detection” artificial intelligence technology will scan all posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts, and when necessary send mental health resources to the user at risk or their friends, or contact local first-responders. By using AI to flag worrisome posts to human moderators instead of waiting for user reports, Facebook can decrease how long it takes to send help.

Facebook previously tested using AI to detect troubling posts and more prominently surface suicide reporting options to friends in the U.S. Now Facebook is will scour all types of content around the world with this AI, except in the European Union, where General Data Protection Regulation privacy laws on profiling users based on sensitive information complicate the use of this tech.

Tech Crunch, November 27, 2017


Facebook is taking its suicide prevention AI global

Facebook is expanding its use of pattern recognition software outside of the United States to help prevent suicides, Reuters reported Monday. Facebook executive Guy Rosen said that the software’s initial testing in the U.S. was effective and led to first responders meeting with more than 100 users identified by the program as suicide risks.

Facebook’s pattern recognition software has taken big leaps forward, according to TechCrunch. In March, the company unveiled a less advanced version of the program that offered information about suicide prevention resources to flagged users and nudged them to reach out to a friend. Now Facebook’s artificial intelligence can automatically identify posts that include suicidal thoughts and send them to human moderators, who can then contact local authorities or first responders directly. “This is about shaving off minutes at every single step of the process,” Rosen said.

The Week, November 27, 2017


Saving Lives Via Text Message

Elisheva Adler was 20 years old, sitting in pajamas in her childhood bedroom in Long Island, the first time she saved someone’s life via text message.

Adler had just started volunteering as a counselor for Crisis Text Line. The 4-year-old nonprofit provides free crisis intervention through a medium that is increasingly favored by young people: texts. Using the code 741741, counselors have exchanged more than 50 million messages with people who are facing issues from stress at school to self-harm. Out of those exchanges have come thousands of “active rescues” where first responders are called to a scene.

Adler heard about Crisis Text Line when she watched a TED talk by founder Nancy Lublin. Lublin had been running a text-based volunteer organization for teens, called DoSomething. One day, Lublin tells NPR, the platform got a text that read, “‘he won’t stop raping me. It’s my dad. He told me not to tell anyone. r u there?’ ”

NPR, November 26, 2017


CDC: Increased social media usage linked to teen suicides

There’s been an increase in suicide rates among teenagers in the United States that occurred at the same time social media usage increased, and researchers say there may be a link to the two.

Suicide is a serious public health issue that affects many young people and is the third largest cause of death for youth between the ages of 10-24, resulting in about 4,600 lives lost each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

A study by the CDC doesn’t answer exactly why teen suicide has increased, but researchers suggest social media is one factor. 

The study’s authors looked at CDC suicide reports from 2009-15 and results of two surveys given to U.S. high school students to measure attitudes, behaviors and interests, according to the CDC. About half a million teens ages 13-18 were involved.

Cleburne Times-Review, November 26, 2017


Artificial intelligence initiatives may effectively combat suicide problem

Over 44,000 Americans take their own lives every year. In 2017, we are in the midst of a 30-year high of suicide rates, making suicide the second leading cause of mortality among young adults. Various factors, from major psychiatric illnesses, like depression and bipolar disorder, to chronic physical pain, can cause people to have suicidal thoughts.

Currently, people who are suicidal can be treated effectively only if they self-report what they are thinking to a professional. In a study concerning people who committed suicide in the hospital or immediately following discharge, 4 out of 5 patients denied having suicidal thoughts to the last mental health care professional with whom they met.

Although screenings for depression and anxiety have been regularized in health care centers throughout the country, they perhaps may not be to much effect. Thus, this is where we may need to start depending more on new technologies to fight the suicide problem, namely artificial intelligence (AI).

Collegiate Times, Nov 24, 2017


Are screens the enemy? A battle over what’s best for teens

A new study has found links between screen time and depressive symptoms and thoughts of suicide in adolescents — but it’s not time to throw the smartphone out the window just yet, experts say.

The study, published earlier this month in Clinical Psychological Science, found that 48 percent of teens who spent five or more hours online each day had one suicide risk factor — such as depression, thinking about, making a plan or attempting suicide. That was 66 percent higher than the teens who only spent one hour a day on phones.

“Something is going on (with teens),” study author Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and generations researcher, told the Deseret News, “and we need to figure out what it is so we can help them.”

Deseret News, Nov. 24, 2017


Self-harm rises sharply among tween and young teen girls, study shows

For girls navigating the straits of adolescence and young adulthood, there are new signs of serious emotional trouble. From 2009 to 2015, the nation’s emergency rooms saw a sharp rise in treatment of girls 10 to 24 who intentionally injured themselves.

But inside that increasing trend of girls and young women harming themselves — a yearly hike of 8.4% in ER visits over six years — lies an even more alarming statistic: Among girls 10 to 14 years old, rates of ER visits for treatment of self-harm surged 18.8% yearly between 2009 and 2015.

For girls in and around their middle school years, the statistics are a harbinger of turmoil and tragedy. Self-inflicted injury, including such behaviors as cutting, burning and ingesting poisons, is not only a cry for help, it is one of the strongest risk factors for suicide.

Among American kids 10 to 24, suicide was the second-leading cause of death in 2015.

The new statistics show that girls and young women were overwhelmingly treated in emergency departments after ingesting pills or poisons. Self-injury with sharp objects was about half as frequent. The data are in line with reports of an uptick in depression and suicide in young 

Americans, especially in young girls, starting around 2008-2009.

Los Angeles Times, November 21, 2017


With teen mental health deteriorating over five years, there’s a likely culprit

Around 2012, something started going wrong in the lives of teens.

In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of U.S. teens who felt useless and joyless – classic symptoms of depression – surged 33 percent in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased 23 percent. Even more troubling, the number of 13- to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31 percent.

In a new paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, my colleagues and I found that the increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background – more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country. All told, our analysis found that the generation of teens I call “iGen” – those born after 1995 – is much more likely to experience mental health issues than their millennial predecessors.

What happened so that so many more teens, in such a short period of time, would feel depressed, attempt suicide and commit suicide? After scouring several large surveys of teens for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.

The Conversation, November 14, 2017


Screen time increases teen depression, thoughts of suicide, research suggests

Hour after hour spent in front of phones, computer screens and tablets might aid depression and thoughts of suicide in teenagers, new research finds.

Researchers from San Diego State and Florida State universities discovered nearly half of teens who got five or more hours of screen time each day had experienced thoughts of suicide or prolonged periods of hopelessness or sadness. That’s nearly double that of teens who spent fewer than an hour in front of a screen.

The numbers come as the suicide rate among teenage girls has increased drastically, climbing 65% from 2010 to 2015. An author of the study hints the numbers could serve as a cry for help from a generation struggling with mental health.

“These increases in mental health issues among teens are very alarming,” said study author Jean Twenge, an SDSU psychology professor. “Teens are telling us they are struggling, and we need to take that very seriously.”

USA Today, November 17, 2017


Florida Student Shoots Himself Outside of School as Teen Suicide Reaches New Heights

A central Florida High School student shot himself outside the school bus loop Tuesday marking the latest suicide at a time when suicide rates are climbing, experts say.

The teen posted on Snapchat “Rest in peace [expletive] all of you who contributed to this” before shooting himself at the Lake Minneola High School, Lake County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. John Herrell told the Orlando Sentinel.

The shooting took place during a scheduled fire drill. But authorities said that it did not appear that anyone witnessed the shooting.

As word got out Tuesday, parents rushed to the school to try to pick up their children.

Experts say the high school student’s death is part of a larger trend. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in August that suicide rates for adolescent boys and girls have climbed since 2007, doubling for females between the ages of 15 and 19 and rising 30 percent for males. In total, 1,537 boys and 524 girls took their one life between 2007 and 2015 — numbers the CDC experts called substantial.

Newsweek, November 14, 2017


Rise in teen suicide, social media coincide; is there link?

An increase in suicide rates among U.S. teens occurred at the same time social media use surged and a new analysis suggests there may be a link.

Suicide rates for teens rose between 2010 and 2015 after they had declined for nearly two decades, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why the rates went up isn’t known.

The study doesn’t answer the question, but it suggests that one factor could be rising social media use. Recent teen suicides have been blamed on cyberbullying, and social media posts depicting “perfect” lives may be taking a toll on teens’ mental health, researchers say.

ABC News, November 14, 2017


Author: Teenagers Turning Pages Of Stories On Suicide Rather Than DystopiaPop Culture Is ‘America’s Subconscious,’ Culture Writer Says

In the 2000s, dystopian fiction for teenagers was all the rage. Take, for example, the novels-turned film franchises “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent.”

But another type of story seems to be filling a niche within teenage popular culture previously held by that dystopian material, says Vox culture writer Constance Grady: the teen suicide story.

NPR, Wisconsin Public Radio, November 9, 2017


‘If you see something, say something.’ Newport-Mesa school district seminar teaches suicide warning signs

As part of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s new program to educate staff about student suicide prevention, parents were invited to a seminar Tuesday night at Corona del Mar High School to learn about what experts say is a rising crisis nationwide.

“We feel it won’t happen in our backyard, but it’s happening everywhere,” said Angela Castellanos, district coordinator of mental health and outreach services. “We’ve had incidents where our students have died by suicide, so we’re not isolated from the phenomenon.”

Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2017


Are Suicide Stories Replacing Dystopian Stories In Teen Fiction?

In the 2000s, dystopian stories like “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” were wildly popular in young adult fiction. But one culture writer says that might be changing, and that dystopian stories are being replaced by stories by of teen suicide in the young adult fiction genre. We find out why….

Wisconsin Public Radio, November 7, 2017 (12 minute interview)


Long Island Mother Blames Vicious Bullying for Teen Son’s Suicide

A Long Island mother says she never realized how bad her son was bullied by kids at school until it was too late.

Angie Collazo said her 17-year-old son Angelo, who suffers from scoliosis, took his own life last week and she blames vicious bullying throughout his life as the reason for his death.

“He was bullied so bad that he felt his only option was to end his own life,” Collazo said. “Children used to punch him, kick him. They tortured him. That’s exactly what these children did. They tortured him.”

Collazo said the bullying began when Angelo was 10 years old, right around the time he started wearing a brace for his scoliosis. The teasing followed Angelo all the way to Hicksville High School, where Collazo said she made multiple complaints to school officials to stop the relentless bullying.

NBC New York, November 7, 2017


Lawyer tells court student suicide was MIT’s fault

A lawyer for the father of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Ph.D. candidate who killed himself on campus argued in Massachusetts’ highest court on Tuesday that universities could be held responsible when students commit suicide on their premises.

In arguments before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in a case questioning the responsibilities of universities, a lawyer for MIT said that schools could only be held liable in limited circumstances for student suicides on campus.

The student, Han Nguyen, jumped to his death at the age of 25 from the top of a building at the prestigious university in 2009.

His father’s lawyer, Jeffrey Beeler, told the court that MIT faculty knew Nguyen was a suicide risk but did nothing to ensure he received help. MIT disputed that assertion.

Reuters, November 7, 2017


An MIT student’s tragic suicide has some asking whether schools can be held responsible

Han Nguyen was consumed by depression and struggling to stay afloat at one of the world’s most prestigious universities. His mental health continued to decline until one day, moments after a professor confronted him about an offensive email, the 25-year-old jumped from the top of a campus building to his death.

Nguyen’s suicide has sparked a contentious legal battle headed to Massachusetts’ highest court over whether schools can be held responsible when students take their own lives. The case is being closely watched by colleges and universities, who say a decision against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would place an unreasonable burden on untrained employees to stop suicides.

Boston.com, November 6, 2017


An 11-Year-Old South Carolina Girl Fatally Shot Herself Because of Bullying at School

Bullying at school led an 11-year-old Hampton, S.C. girl to fatally shoot herself, he family said

Toni Rivers, who was a sixth grader at a Hampton County School District 1 elementary school, had been bullied for months, her family said, and her mother, Amy Thomas, had been in contact with the school multiple times, WTOC reports. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating the girl’s death.

On Wednesday, Rivers told five of her friends “that she just couldn’t do this anymore, and she was going home and she was killing herself,” Maria Petersen, the girl’s aunt, told WT.

TIME, November 3, 2017


Study: Machine may predict suicide risk by measuring how people respond to words

Can you predict suicide risk? It may be possible, according to a new report.

Scientists from Carnegie Mellon University recently conducted a small experiment, published in Nature Human Behaviour, to determine if suicidal risks can be linked to biological brain patterns.

To do so, they assessed 34 young adults – 17 who had suicidal thoughts and 17 who did not – using a set of 30 words and a fMRI, an imaging machine that measures brain activity.

Scientists asked participants to read positive words, such as “bliss,” and negative words, such as “cruelty.” They were then instructed to reflect on them while undergoing the scan. 

They found the machine was able to correctly identify the people with suicidal thoughts and those without them 91 percent of the time. It also pointed out the individuals who had previously attempted suicide.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 2, 2017


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



 

Children’s Hospitals Admissions for Suicidal Thoughts or Actions Double During Past Decade – Report from the Pediatric Academic Societies.

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.  


 

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.


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