Entries in Suicide Prevention (3)


Suicide Prevention: 'Checking In' Can Cut Deaths in Half

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Suicide is never painless.  It not only robs family members of loved ones, but affects all of American society when otherwise productive individuals see no worth to their lives.

Broadly speaking, a federal study shows, 8.3 million Americans -- 3.7 percent of all adults -- have serious thoughts of suicide each year; 2.3 million make a plan and 1.1 million attempt suicide, resulting in an estimated 37,000 suicide deaths each year.

In some ways, that's the good news, according to John Draper, director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Most who consider suicide do not follow through.

"People with the highest probability of killing themselves have tried before," he said.  "The data shows about 7 percent who try to kill themselves will later die by suicide."

"The important thing is that 93 percent go on to live their lives," he said.  "It's saying that even though this is a high-risk scenario, the overwhelming majority are doing OK or better and find ways to turn it around.  How do they do that?"

Acts as simple as "checking in" with someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression can be an effective deterrent to suicide, according to Draper.

"First and foremost is the sense of meaningful connection in life," he said.  "Someone or somebody who makes them feel they are cared about."

Preliminary research from a SAMHSA-funded team at Columbia University and NY State's Psychiatric Institute shows that follow-up calls with consenting Lifeline callers at suicide risk can help keep them safe.

More than half of the persons at risk who were contacted after suicide threats reported that the calls "kept them from killing themselves," according to the as yet unpublished study.

"Our results highlight the role that crisis centers can play to enhance the continuity of care for individuals at risk of suicide," said author Madelyn S. Gould, deputy director of the Research Training Program in Child Psychiatry at Columbia University.

"Crisis centers are well-positioned to provide this service to their own callers and patients discharged from emergency rooms," she said.

Draper said that post cards, phone calls and personal visits to those who are suffering from depression can help.

"Check in with individuals who are trying to hurt themselves and say, 'How are you doing?  I'm still thinking of you,'" he advised.

He cited research in New Zealand that shows such communications from hospital emergency departments reduced suicide attempts "by 50 percent."

Beyond showing those who are troubled that they are valued, Draper said providing counseling and guidance is critical to recovery -- "teaching them skills to manage their thoughts and feelings."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Facebook Taking Proactive Stance Against Suicides

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the wake of the suicide of a 31-year-old Taiwanese woman who told friends on Facebook she was planning to kill herself, Facebook's managers tell ABC News they have plans to work with other leading websites to provide more robust suicide prevention resources to Web users.

"We're working with other Internet companies at formulating a list of best practices, so that there's an understanding and a consensus, along with experts in the suicide prevention community, for online properties dealing with this issue," Frederic Wolens, a spokesman for Facebook, told ABC News.

Wolens said the suicide of Claire Lin, who killed herself on her 31st birthday on March 18, highlighted a problem that social networks have been trying to grapple with for years: how individuals who are suicidal often let their despair reflect on their social networking profiles, by chatting to friends about it or leaving other signs.

"More and more, as Facebook becomes more widespread and pervasive, it's becoming a better and better mirror for what's going on in the real world," Wolens said. "With suicides going on in the real world, the suicide touches some part of Facebook, whether it's the signs leading up to it, or people who wrote things on their Facebook."

The parents of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student who killed himself after his roommate allegedly used a webcam to spy on his intimate encounter with another man, are speaking out.

In the case of Lin, the connection to Facebook was particularly gruesome. Lin chatted with nine Facebook friends on the website while she slowly killed herself by asphyxiation, inhaling the fumes from a charcoal barbecue in a closed room and typing messages about her slow death.

The friends begged her to open a window and put the fire out, but did not call police.

In other instances, individuals have written Facebook "status updates" confessing they wanted to kill themselves, or written messages to friends expressing suicidal thoughts. Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi brought widespread media and public attention to the issue after he killed himself in 2010. Moments before, he had posted a Facebook message saying, "Jumping off the george washington bridge. Sorry."

Currently, Facebook offers resources to users in the U.S. who ask for them. If a person planning suicide mentions it on Facebook, and friends report it to administrators, they will send messages to the person and his or her friends, offering help.

A private, one-on-one Facebook chat with a suicide prevention counselor would pop open on the person's Facebook page, offering counseling free of charge. The person would also be offered local resources that could be found offline, Wolens said.

For a user who reports suicidal postings by a friend, Facebook offers resources on how to help a friend through that crisis or whom they could recommend the friend contact for help.

"So in the U.S. specifically, we already have a system where when we receive a report of a user that's in distress, that goes into our safety team, which reviews the report to make sure it's an authentic report, and after we've verified it, we reach out to person who has reported it and the distressed user," Wolens said. Facebook then offers the specific chat and local resources, a model the company plans to duplicate abroad.

Facebook also already houses helpline phone numbers and other resources in its Help Center.

What the company won't do is scan users' online activity for warning signs or mentions of suicidal thoughts, Wolens said. The ability to crunch data from billions of users' messages each day -- coupled with the nuance and context of messages that might contain words like "kill myself" -- would make sorting through the data impractical.

For Facebook and other social websites, including Twitter, the opportunity potentially to help suicidal users is great, while the challenge of implementing a practical system has been enormous, Wolens said.

Wolens declined to name the other companies Facebook is working with on the issue, though he said they are leading Internet and tech companies. The group first met in January 2011 to begin talking about the problem and possible solutions, and met again in January 2012, he said.

The group's goals are to standardize the best ways a website or Internet company can deal with suicidal users, primarily by offering resources and one-on-one help to those who ask for it. They have consulted with suicide prevention specialists and organizations whose members are at greater risk for suicide, such as the LGBT community and veterans, Wolens said.

"Eventually we'll be able to have best practices that we can go out and distribute to other Internet companies and work with the online community on adoption," he said.

While the loose coalition works to formalize its plans, Wolens said Facebook will continue to work with suicide prevention groups to implement resources and raise awareness through its own site.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bullied Teen Hangs Self After Writing She Loves 'All My Haterz'

File photo. Hemera/Thinkstock(VANCOUVER, Wash.) -- A 14-year-old girl whose Facebook page says she loves "all my haterz" has committed suicide after enduring two years of bullying by her female classmates, her family claims.

Eden Wormer, an eighth grader at Cascade Middle School in Vancouver, Wash. hung herself Wednesday.

The girl's family told ABC News affiliate KATU that she committed suicide after two years of being bullied by girls in her class. Wormer's older sister, Audri, told the station that Eden changed her appearance several times in an effort to fit in and begged her older sister not to report the bullying because she thought it would only make the problem worse.

Wormer's Facebook page is a bittersweet mix of tween angst where she wrote: "im super funny and out going i love all my friends n family n that includes all my haterz.! :) n im funn to hang around too. :)"

In a Feb. 12 post, she wrote: "omg im such a loner i dont have a valentines n the only thing im celebrating valentines day with is my bummble bee pillow pet. like this iff u hhave no valentines too or iff u wanna be my valentine. :)"

Police in Vancouver say they haven't found evidence that the alleged bullying violated any state laws, according to KATU. Both the school and the Evergreen School District are talking to students and investigating what might have happened and whether any bullying had been documented.

Following her death, Wormer's friends wrote mournful words on her Facebook page. Brook Radtke wrote: "Eden you are an amazing [betuifl] person i will miss you forever love isabel abd brook."

Another friend, Samantha Lynn, wrote, "I wish it didn't take people this long to relize how beautiful you are and how unique you are. You are the sweetest girl in the world. I wish you knew you didn't have to fit in. It's good to stand out."

Wormer's suicide is the latest in a string of youthful suicides that have been attributed to bullying and have prompted a spate of anti-bullying legislation across the country.

Carol Fenstermacher, director of community relations at Evergreen School District, told ABC News that she couldn't comment on this individual case. However, she says she wished someone in the school or community had been able to investigate the bullying claims before such a tragedy occurred.

"It's something that the school community is going to be dealing with for a while," she said.

The school district maintains a website to keep students and parents informed about bullying and harassment, and features a Safe Schools Alert system in which people can anonymously report bullying by phone, text or email. So far this school year, Fenstermacher says there have been 11 reported incidents of bullying at Cascade, which is fairly typical for a middle school, but the type of bullying may vary.

"When there are reports, they're looked at," said Fenstermacher. "We call kids in, and we talk to them. It was disturbing to hear family members saying, 'We didn't call the school.' Please do. If you fear retaliation, do it anonymously, because it's still going to be checked out."

Mike Donlin, program supervisor for the School Safety Center at Washington's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, said that the state passed comprehensive anti-bullying and harassment legislation in 2010 that defines bullying and requires a set of procedures that all schools must follow.

Although cases of suicide in connection with bullying are rare, "in my mind, the tragedy is that we often forget," he said. "That young person was screaming out for help. We have to learn from this and make sure that we deal with things."

Donlin's School Safety Center also maintains a working group to fight harassment and bullying, and it's scheduled to convene next week. Donlin said he imagines that Eden's case will be discussed at length.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio