By: CAMH Thursday, November 15, 2012
November 17 is International Survivors of Suicide Day – a day of healing for survivors of suicide loss. Sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), conferences have been set up in cities across the world to connect people who have experienced suicide loss.
At CAMH, suicide prevention is an essential part of our work. Up to 90 per cent of people who have died by suicide are believed to have a mental illness. The 2011-2012 CAMH Research Report includes a focus on suicide research, and highlights knowledge contributed by the Clinical, Social and Epidemiological, and Neuroscience Research Departments to this complex area.
Treatment effects last
Quality treatment programs with well-trained clinicians have a lasting effect on preventing suicide attempts in people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), according to a study by CAMH clinical psychologist, Dr. Shelley McMain.
Heavy drinking may have a role
A substantial proportion of adults who die by suicide are intoxicated at the time of death—an issue that has not been well examined to date but could provide a target for prevention efforts. CAMH senior scientist Dr. Norman Giesbrecht is part of a 16-state study on acute alcohol use and suicide led by Portland State University.
Targeting genes for prevention
The prospect of using genetic testing to identify people at risk of suicide offers another avenue for prevention. Dr. Vincenzo De Luca studies genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors linked to suicide risk.
Bullying, youth and suicide
Over the last few months, the issue of bullying and suicide has garnered national headlines. The ensuing public discussion has underscored the need to understand the relationship between bullying, cyberbullying and suicide in youth.
CAMH is contributing to this understanding through recently published data from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) on the connection between suicidal thoughts and bullying victimization.
The anonymous survey of students from grades 7 through 12 across the province found that 21 per cent of girls who were bullied by peers at school also contemplated suicide at some point that year. This percentage represents a staggering 31,800 girls, and is double the percentage seen among girls who were not bullied at school. Girls who reported being victimized by cyberbullying – an estimated 37,500 – were over three times more likely to contemplate suicide than those who were not cyberbullied.
Research, understanding and prevention
In Canada, suicide is one of the 10 leading causes of death. Through the areas of research highlighted in this post, CAMH clinicians and scientists are working to understand and decrease the impact suicide has on our society. CAMH President and CEO Dr. Catherine Zahn has often captured the spirit of this work when speaking in the community. “Imagine a world” she says, “where everyone believes that life is worth living.”
CAMH resources on suicide