Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. In an effort to help raise awareness, we have compiled resources consisting of Riggs blogs, external publications, suicide research initiatives, and events throughout Berkshire County bringing awareness to this crucial topic.
The Mental Health Crisis in America: Recognizing Problems, Working Toward Solutions - September 21-22, 2019
A major international conference where experts will be discussing suicide - an escalating threat, veterans facing mental illness, Mental Health Parity, and more.
Bertha Connelley and Lee Watroba will present at a Talk Saves Lives event, giving a brief introduction to suicide prevention. Learn the warning signs and risk factors of suicide, and how together, we can help prevent it.
Join in the effort to raise awareness and funds that allow the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to invest in new research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support survivors of suicide loss.
Riggs Blogs on Suicide
Austen Riggs Center's Chief Nursing Officer writes about the importance of talking about suicide, prevention, and our personal experiences as mental health professions
After a colleague experienced the shock and trauma of a patient dying by suicide, Dr. Jane Tillman, Evelyn Stefansson Nef Director at the Erikson Institute for Education and Research at the Austen Riggs Center, decided to explore the topic of how a therapist copes with this type of loss.
While their goal was reportedly to try to dissuade others from considering suicide as an option, decades of research have clearly shown that exposure to specific suicide details and methods actually elevates the likelihood of an attempt in individuals who are in distress and thinking of suicide – and this is particularly the case in young adults.
Media guidelines exist for the portrayal of suicide, and 13 Reasons Why breaks most of them. In particular, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) notes that the “risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/graphic headlines or images, and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death.”
Reportedly, the writer and producers who created 13 Reasons Why believed that the very explicit suicide scene would help discourage people from attempts (Nic Sheff, Vanity Fair, April 19, 2017), despite clear and convincing evidence that graphic depictions of suicide often have the opposite effect, especially among young adults.
Drs. Elizabeth Weinberg and Katie Lewis write about the events following the release of season one of 13 Reasons Why, supporting their original concerns about the controversial series.
While the many depictions of the difficulties that beset the teens in this series reflect issues commonly portrayed in the media, such as opiate addiction, gun violence, bullying, rape, and suicide, there remains a significant difficulty in that 13 Reasons Why seeks to inform teens and their families about these issues, yet persistently treats these issues in highly problematic ways.
During a visit to the Austen Riggs Center, Dese’Rae L. Stage, photographer, writer, and suicide prevention activist, spoke with us about suicide prevention and Live Through This, a multimedia-based storytelling series that aims to reduce prejudice and discrimination against suicide attempt survivors.
Recent Publications by Riggs Clinicians
Dr. Jane G. Tillman's article in the Association of American Medical Colleges AAMCNews discusses how individuals and organizations can help support clinicians dealing with the terrible loss of a patient to suicide.
Dr. Eric Plakun's column in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice reviews and discusses recommendations for treating suicidal patients in psychotherapy.
Dr. Eric Plakun's column in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice discusses "a way of establishing and maintaining an alliance with suicidal patients that engages the issue of suicide and allows the rest of psychodynamic therapy to unfold."
Research on Suicide
Austen Riggs Center Researcher Dr. Katie Lewis Receives Major Grant from American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Katie Lewis, PhD, research psychologist at the Austen Riggs Center, has received the competitive Young Investigator Innovation Grant from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) for her study: “Impact of Interpersonal Experiences on Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors.” Dr. Lewis’ study was one of fewer than ten chosen out of 175 applications.
Research Update – States of Mind Preceding a Near Lethal Suicide Attempt: Understanding Pathways to Suicide and Associated Risk and Protective Factors
The States of Mind (SOM) study involves 131 participants drawn from the patient population of the Austen Riggs Center. Data were collected between 2009-2012. Within this sample we conducted a detailed psychodynamic interview with a subset of 11 patients who had made a medically serious suicide attempt within the two years prior to admission.
“Impact of Interpersonal Experiences on Maladaptive Thoughts and Behaviors:” Lessons Learned from the Pilot Study
Dr. Katie Lewis talks about her learning from a pilot study looking at how daily problems in relating may influence vulnerability to self-destructive thoughts and actions.