As the amount of involvement that people have with psychiatric professionals and psychiatric care increases, the likelihood that they will commit suicide rises steadily and dramatically, according to a study in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. Taking psychiatric medications makes people nearly 6 times more likely to kill themselves, while having spent time in the previous year in a psychiatric hospital makes them over 44 times more likely to kill themselves. The findings suggested that clinical tools for assessing suicide risk are not working well, stated the Danish authors of the broad-based study of the Denmark population. However, an accompanying editorial suggested the findings more likely showed that “psychiatric care might, at least in part, cause suicide.” Discuss →
A rising number of people in UK psychiatric hospitals are harming themselves or trying to take their own lives, according to statistics from the UK National Health Service. “The number of such incidents at 29 of England’s 52 NHS mental health trusts rose from 14,815 in 2010 to 23,053 last year, an increase of 56% over four years,” reports The Guardian. “The average number per trust rose from 511 to 795 last year over the same period.” Discuss →
A state’s rate of job losses is linked to its rates of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and suicide plans in young people of African American descent and in young women, according to research published in the American Journal of Public Health. “Job losses among 1% of a state’s working-age population increased the probability of girls and Blacks reporting suicide-related behaviors by 2 to 3 percentage points,” wrote the researchers. Discuss →
I’ve been very, very sad lately. Some might even call me “depressed.” There are a lot of reasons. Robin Williams’ suicide is not one of them. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not happy about what has come of him. I have fond memories of Mork and Mindy, just like everyone else over the age of 30 or so. It is unquestionably sad to learn he was hurting so much, and even harder to reconcile that with his relentlessly upbeat public persona. On a personal level, it hurts at least a little to know that someone who experienced that level of success (about which most can only dream) also fell so far and experienced so much despair. Full Article →
Like millions, I am sitting with the fact that one of the funniest people to grace the planet has died by his own hand. Robin Williams’ death has hit people of my generation, Generation X, especially hard. After all, his face flashed often across our childhood screens. Mork and Mindy episodes were a source of solace for me as a little girl, as I bounced around between foster homes and family members’ homes, while my single mother cycled in and out of the state mental hospital, fighting to survive. I could laugh and say “nanu, nanu – shazbot” and “KO” and do the silly hand sign and forget for just a little while about living a life I didn’t ask for. Full Article →
There was a 51 percent increase in US hospital admissions for drug-related suicide attempts between 2005 and 2011, according to two reports from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). These types of visits rose from 151,477 in 2005 to 228,277 visits in 2011, stated a SAMHSA press release. One psychiatrist suggested in HealthDay that it was part of a cultural shift involving “pills versus guns” for suicide attempts. Discuss →
Many people who have never been severely depressed might ask, “Why would anybody want to kill themselves?” After all, taking one’s life goes directly against the survival instinct that nature has programmed us with. For example, if you were walking across the street and saw a car coming towards you − your first instinct would be to jump out of its path. Yet, when the brain becomes overwhelmed with chronic, intense pain that seems to have no end, then suicide becomes not only a rational choice, but a compelling option. After all, if you are faced with the prospect of being in eternal hell, then taking your own life seems like an act of self-love, not an act of self-detruction. Full Article →
Dr. Bernard Carroll, scientific director of the non-profit Pacific Behavioral Research Foundation and a former chair of Duke University’s psychiatry department, is suggesting the British Medical Journal should retract last month’s article that linked the FDA’s black box warnings about increased suicidality in youth taking SSRIs to increases in adolescent suicide attempts. The BMJ article by Christine Lu et al reached its conclusions by using drug poisonings as a proxy for suicide attempts. “A substandard article with large policy implications slipped through their review and editing process and it was trumpeted in the world media,” writes Carroll in his second critical letter to BMJ about the article. Carroll points out that many letters have exposed the profound flaws in the study, but “the coup de grace” was the recent letter to BMJ from Barber, Miller and Azrael from the Harvard School of Public Health, reported yesterday in Mad In America. Those authors provided direct evidence that suicide attempts had not increased, and also disavowed Lu’s citation of their study as proof that drug poisonings were a valid proxy for suicide attempts. “Certainly, a retraction would shine a stronger public searchlight on the compromised validity of the Lu report than just the Rapid Responses can do,” writes Carroll.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Psychiatric News today published an article about the Lu study, and reproduced many of the flaws and omissions which were publicly exposed weeks ago. Only one critic is quoted.
Mad In America has been following the story closely and has compiled links to critiques and a summary analysis of the issues here.
Last month a widely-reported British Medical Journal study led by Harvard Medical School’s Christine Lu suggested that black box warnings about increased suicidality in youth who take antidepressants actually led to increases in adolescent suicide attempts. Lu’s study based its conclusions on data that showed drug poisoning rates rose after the FDA warnings came out. However, the latest in a stream of critics of that conclusion are the authors of one of the key studies cited by Lu in support of her team’s analysis. Catherine Barber, Matthew Miller and Deborah Azrael of the Harvard School of Public Health write in a letter to BMJ that drug-poisoning rates are not, in fact, a reliable proxy for suicide attempts. Furthermore, they report that “five readily available, online data sources that provide more reliable and valid measures of youth suicidal behavior” showed no increase in suicide attempts following the black box warnings. (more…)
Smoking laws and cigarette taxes have strong links to suicide rates, according to psychiatrists from Washington University in St. Louis. Previous studies have presumed that links between smoking and suicide related to high smoking rates among people diagnosed with psychiatric disorders; however, in a study published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, state-level data from 1990 to 2004 show that when states adopted aggressive tobacco-control policies, their suicide rates decreased. “Our analysis showed that each dollar increase in cigarette taxes was associated with a 10 percent decrease in suicide risk,” said psychiatrist Richard Grucza in a press release. “Indoor smoking bans also were associated with risk reductions.” Discuss →
As a trauma survivor growing up in various adolescent mental health systems, I never learned any useful self-care tools or practices. I was taught that my current coping skills (self-injury, suicidal behavior, illicit drug use) were unacceptable, but not given any ideas as to what to replace them with. No one seemed to want to know much about the early childhood traumas that were driving these behaviors. Instead, I collected an assortment of diagnoses. I was told that I would be forever dependent on mediated relationships with professionals, and an ever-changing combination of pills. The message was that my troubles were chemical in nature and largely beyond my control. Full Article →
My mother was once a bright, creative, beautiful young woman, a promising artist and a poet, who was captivated by the hippie movement. She was a creative bohemian artist, defying the conventions of our middle-class Jewish Midwestern family, which had carried a tradition of holding emotions inside and acting stoic. One day, soon after my grandparents’ divorce, she left. She hitched a ride to California, and from that point on, was never the same. The police picked her up on a park bench in Arizona, and she was committed for the first time at age 18. She rotated in and out of mental hospitals, the streets, and jail until her death. Full Article →
A comprehensive meta-analysis of randomized trial data by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health finds that children and young adults who start antidepressants at high doses appear to be at greater risk for suicidal behavior. Discuss →
While I have lived just a few miles away from the Capitol for the last fifteen years, I have been unsure about getting involved in legislative advocacy. I’ve been intimidated by the complexity of the legislative process, and more inclined to leave it up to others who I perceive as having more experience than me. And honestly, I haven’t felt very hopeful about effecting change. My cynicism had turned to “learned helplessness.” And then along came a mental health bill so destructive, so regressive, that I had to step out of my uncomfortable comfort zone. Full Article →
Research in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry finds, in a study of 18,154 subjects diagnosed with schizophrenia, that “The highest suicide-related mortality was seen among subjects recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. Among all potential baseline risk factors for completed suicide examined, the variables most associated with completed suicide were history of suicide attempts and usage of antidepressant medication.”
The New York Times reports that survivors of suicide attempts, who vastly outnumber the numbers of completed suicides, are beginning to be heard. “We as researchers haven’t yet tapped the potential of working with suicide attempt survivors,” said Matthew K. Nock, a professor of psychology at Harvard. “There’s the potential to learn from them not only more about the experience itself, but about treatments, and where there are gaps in our understanding.” Leah Harris, of the National Empowerment Center, adds in the article, “Even in treatment settings, all the interventions are brought down on you if you even mention it. So you just learn to shut up.” Discuss →
Representative Tim Murphy is a psychologist who proposes unsatisfactory solutions to our most pressing social problems. In a “shockingly regressive” piece of legislation known as the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013” (H.R. 3717), he proposes to expand the highly controversial practice of Involuntary Outpatient Committment (IOC) for persons with serious mental illnesses. But that approach is not the answer, as documented in a fact sheet authored by the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery: Full Article →
As I walked alone up the stairs to the Rayburn House Office Building this morning to attend the hearing of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health on H.R. 3717 – the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act – I thought about how I wasn’t truly alone. In spirit with me were all the people who had experienced scary, coercive, and dehumanizing interventions in the name of help. In spirit with me was every mental health provider who went into the field hoping to really make a difference in their communities, but became cynical and discouraged in the face of so many broken systems and broken spirits. Full Article →
Hello from another fellow Virginian. First, I want to extend my deepest condolences for the horrific tragedy that befell your family last year, and for the loss of your precious son Gus. I think I know, at least in part, how agonizing it is when our loved ones cannot access helpful supports, and how it feels to watch in horror as they spiral downward into darkness and despair. We all agree that our mental health systems are broken. Those of us who have been down the hellish road of struggling with our mental health and have found recovery have developed a new vision that will take us forwards, not backwards. Please give us the opportunity to share that new vision with you. Full Article →
What do you do when the media reports stories of children who have killed themselves on SSRIs? Position the stories of these children, not the drugs they were taking, as a suicide risk. Issue dire threats of copycat suicide, publish studies of suicide contagion and warn the families of these children and the media that more children will die if mouthy parents are allowed to speak and upstart journalists are allowed to report. And then position psychiatrists as the only people who can talk about suicide without producing an epidemic of self inflicted deaths. Full Article →
The first time I tried to kill myself, I was 14. I won’t go into the indignity of being involuntarily locked up, time after time, until I satisfactorily convinced the staff that I wouldn’t harm myself or attempt suicide again. (I was lying.) The system taught me to lie, to hide my suicidal feelings in order to escape yet another round of dehumanizing lock-ups and “treatments.” Full Article →
Researchers from the U.K. and Canada identified early life risk factors from a 1958 birth cohort that predicted suicide up to 50 years later. The strongest factors for suicide were birth order (later-born children more at risk), young maternal age, emotional adversities (such as parental death, neglect, domestic tension, institutional care, and parental divorce/separation and bullying. The strongest link was for persons with three or more adversities.
In a few days, I will turn 65. Aside from asking myself, “Where did the time go?” I am reminded that my becoming a senior citizen is a part of a greater phenomenon–the aging of the baby boomer generation. While much attention has been focused on the rise of dementia and Alzheimer’s that will accompany the graying of America, there exists another equally significant hazard of growing old in our culture – the increasing number of older Americans who are attempting suicide – and succeeding. Given that I have battled depression my entire life, this trend takes on personal significance for me. Full Article →
Avatar of equipoise Tim Gunn, reflecting on his two and a half years in a psychiatric hospital, offers some life advice to Terry Gross on Fresh Air; “I have respect for myself, I have respect for you, I’m taking the world seriously, and let’s navigate the world with some style.” Gunn remembers his time in the hospital, and in particular on psychiatrist’s persistence, with gratitude.