This morning’s *USA Today* includes an article: “Why the holiday suicide
myth persists” by Kim Painter.
Here are some excerpts:
[begin excerpts]
For the past decade, Dan Romer, a researcher at the Annenberg Public
Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, has been tracking
mentions of suicide and the holiday season in stories published in U.S.
newspapers from mid-November to mid-January.
His first study, covering the 1999 holiday season, found that just 23%
of stories debunked the myth and the rest reinforced it.
By 2006, 91% of stories debunked the myth, and Romer took some credit:
Publicizing the facts had nearly killed the myth, he thought.
He was wrong.
In the 2007 season, the myth was back in half of stories, he says.
And Romer just completed his analysis of 2008 holiday coverage.
He found that 38% of stories supported the myth and 62% debunked it – an
improvement he attributes partly to a myth-busting report published last
December in the British Medical Journal.
<snip>
But the myth may harm people instead.
“It might unnecessarily put people on their guard or increase their
anxiety,” says Ronald Pies, a psychiatrist at Tufts University School of
Medicine, via e-mail.
Worse, he says, some people “on the brink” of self-harm might feel
encouraged to follow through when they read or hear that holiday
suicides are common.
The myth might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Romer agrees: “You don’t want to convey the message that this is
acceptable or that there’s a good reason to do it.”
<snip>
But, experts say, suicide is almost always the act of someone who has
endured deep depression or another mental illness for months or years –
not someone with a passing case of the blues.
<snip>
Meanwhile, researchers continue to look for the real patterns in
suicidal behavior, says Alexander Crosby, a CDC researcher. “That can
help us in terms of finding protective factors,” he says.
And one protective factor, he says, is “connectiveness” – that is, how
connected people are to friends, families and communities.
[end excerpts]
The article is online at:
clipping courtesy of Ken Pope

The University of Washington issued a news release about
research to be presented later this week at the annual meeting of the
American Association of Suicidology.  Some excerpts:

Adolescents and young adults typically consider peer relationships to be
all important. However, it appears that strong family support, not peer support, is
protective in reducing future suicidal behavior among young adults when
they have experienced depression or have attempted suicide.

New research that will be presented here April 17 at the annual meeting
of the American Association of Suicidology shows that high school
depression and a previous suicide attempt were significant predictors of
thinking about suicide one or two years later. But, those individuals
who had high levels of depression or had attempted suicide in high
school were less likely to engage in suicidal thinking if they had
strong family support and bonds.

In addition, having a current romantic partner also reduced suicidal thoughts.

By bonding, the researchers are referring to a person’s closeness with
his or her family, or a partner, enjoying spending time with them, and
the ability to talk with them about important issues.

“Our findings suggest that the protective quality of family support and
bonding, or having an intimate partner, are not replaced by peer support
and bonding in emerging adulthood. “

The new issue of *Archives of General Psychiatry* (Vol. 66 No. 3, March)
includes an article: “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Suicide Attempts
in a Community Sample of Urban American Young Adults.”

The authors are Holly C. Wilcox, PhD; Carla L. Storr, ScD; & Naomi
Breslau, PhD.

Here’s the abstract:

Context

Previous research has shown that exposure to traumatic events,
especially sexual trauma during childhood, is associated with an
increased risk of attempted suicide. However, no information is
available as to whether the increased risk of attempted suicide is
related primarily to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following
traumatic experiences or applies also to persons who experienced trauma
but did not develop PTSD.

Objective

We examine the association between exposure to traumatic events with and
without resulting PTSD and the risk of a subsequent suicide attempt in a
community sample of urban young adults.

Design

A cohort study followed young adults who had participated in a
randomized trial of all first-grade students entering 19 public schools.

Setting

Baltimore, Maryland, an urban setting.

Participants

A total of 1698 young adults (mean age, 21; 47% male; 71% African
American) who represented 75% of the original cohort of 2311 persons.

Main Outcome Measure

Relative risk of a subsequent suicide attempt associated with PTSD and
with exposure to assaultive and nonassaultive traumas (no PTSD), as
estimated using discrete time survival analysis.

Results

Posttraumatic stress disorder was associated with increased risk of a
subsequent suicide attempt
. The PTSD-suicide attempt association was
robust, even after adjustment for a prior major depressive episode,
alcohol abuse or dependence, and drug abuse or dependence (adjusted
relative risk, 2.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.3-5.5; P < .01). In
contrast, exposure to traumatic events without PTSD was not associated
with an increased risk of attempted suicide.

Conclusions

Posttraumatic stress disorder is an independent predictor of attempted
suicide. Exposure to traumatic events without PTSD is not associated
with a later suicide attempt.

6 July 2008 *New York Times* includes an article: “The Urge to End
It” by Scott Anderson.

Here are some excerpts:

“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem,” Albert Camus
wrote, “and that is suicide.” How to explain why, among the only
species capable of pondering its own demise, whose desperate attempts to
forestall mortality have spawned both armies and branches of medicine in
a perpetual search for the Fountain of Youth, there are those who, by
their own hand, would choose death over life? Our contradictory
reactions to the act speak to the conflicted hold it has on our
imaginations: revulsion mixed with fascination, scorn leavened with
pity. It is a cardinal sin — but change the packaging a little, and
suicide assumes the guise of heroism or high passion, the stuff of
literature and art.
(more…)