Celebrating John R. Lewis, Suicide Prevention Champion

While we all celebrate the great contributions to America by civil rights leader John R. Lewis, the suicide prevention community remembers him also as the first person in our House of Representatives to publicly step into the fearsome and taboo subject of suicide and call on this country to recognize that the prevention of death by suicide is a “national priority.”

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John R. Lewis, speaking at the Lincoln Memorial, August 24, 2013

Congressman Lewis of Georgia, who died last week at age 80, was the first in the House to speak out and speak up. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada introduced a similar resolution in the Senate at nearly the same time in the same year. Reid had lost his father to suicide and chose to speak openly about his loss to the world.

Motivating John Lewis were Elsie and Jerry Weyrauch, who had lost their daughter to suicide—a promising young doctor. John Lewis was their congressman. He took their cause to Congress and sparked the fire that led to national action—or, in his words, some “necessary trouble.”

Thus, three loss survivors (Elsie, Jerry, and Harry), together with John Lewis, launched those key “first movements” that began only in 1997.  These bold actions not only broke through the barriers of shame and stigma, they fueled the first ever national movement to prevent suicide.

House Resolution 212 of the 105th Congress, introduced by Lewis with 92 co-sponsors on July 31, 1997 and adopted by the House, declared that “the House of Representatives recognizes suicide as a national problem and declares suicide prevention a national priority, acknowledges that no single prevention program will be appropriate for all populations or communities, and encourages certain initiatives, including the development (and the promotion of accessibility and affordability) of mental health services to enable all persons at risk for suicide to obtain services without fear of stigma.”

HR 212 and Reid’s resolution in the Senate were followed by the National Suicide Prevention Conference in Reno in 1998, viewed by many as the founding event of the modern suicide prevention movement.

Margret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” These brave few prove her case.

We may be running a little low on heroes just now, but we in suicide prevention will always have our John R. Lewis.

—By Paul Quinnett

Paul Quinnett is founder and CEO of the QPR Institute and author of Suicide: The Forever Decision

For School Staff, Suicide Prevention Resources

Teens may have a tough time coping emotionally with the stress, fear, and uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. AAP says that feeling depressed, hopeless, anxious or angry are signs that they may need more support.

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For school administrators and teachers preparing to address student mental health challenges in the next school year, resources are available on the website of the Suicide Prevention Center  of New York State (SPCNY).

“Staff are uniquely positioned to identify warning signs and subtle behavior changes, and schools should plan for what to do if suicide risk is identified,” says SPCNY. The center urges school districts develop written procedures for staff to follow when warning signs of suicide are observed or suspected.

SPCNY cites a 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey showing that 31.4 percent of New York State high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless, 17.2 percent seriously considered attempting suicide, and 7.4 percent reported a suicide attempt in the previous 12 months. “Because youth spend a large proportion of their time in school, schools play a central role in New York State’s effort to prevent suicide,” SPCNY says.

SPCNY’s website lists several suicide prevention training programs designed specifically for school staff. They include trainings on recognizing warning signs, helping at-risk students, and responding to a suicide or other traumatic death in the school community.

The website also lists resources for educators:

Crisis Text Line Marketing Toolkit

Kognito’s At Risk online modules can be accessed for free by New York City educators

Warning signs video

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Act on Facts: Making Educators Partners in Youth Suicide Prevention – Three-minute trailer and full training modules

Sources of Strength is a suicide-prevention program that utilizes peer leaders to change unhealthy norms and culture and, ultimately, prevent bullying, substance use, and suicide.

Good Behavior Game is an evidence-based classroom program that improves self-regulation and co-regulation among 1st and 2nd graders. Longitudinal studies have found decreases in suicide, mental health problems, and substance use, among other outcomes.

JED Foundation provides resources and information for High School personnel

School Mental Health and High School Curriculum Guide

SPCNY also produced “A Guide for Suicide Prevention in New York Schools.” (Download PDF) The guide provides an overview of suicide risk factors, warning signs, and protective factors. It also outlines a wealth of information on prevention programs, targeting higher risk groups for support, and providing individualized intervention.

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According to SPCNY, deaths by suicide in New York State have increased by 32 percent in the past decade, in stark contrast to gradual reductions in the death rate for other diseases such as cancer, heart disease or stroke. The rate of suicide in all age groups has continued to steadily rise in the last decade and the rate of suicide death among children 10 to 14 has doubled in that same time frame.

“Addressing the problem of youth suicide requires collaborative action across a variety of community agencies, but schools have logically assumed more of a leadership role in identifying, referring, and aiding youth with mental health needs,” SPCNY says. “Schools also play a critical role in promoting psychosocial competencies that reduce vulnerability to suicide.”

SPCNY notes that given that the developmental trajectory for suicide risk can begin early in life, schools are uniquely positioned for building resilience among their students and developing a caring community within a positive school climate and culture necessary for the prevention of suicide.

 

Congratulations, High School Class of 2020

In case you missed it, check out the wonderful high school graduation celebration broadcast on most channels Saturday evening May 16.

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The event was organized by The LeBron James Family Foundation and partners, and featured a message from LeBron James and a commencement address by former President Barack Obama.

The 1-hour celebration opened with a moving Star-Spangled Banner sung by an online chorus of graduating seniors.

The event also included appearances by Megan Rapinoe, Yara Shahidi, Olivia Wilde, Pharrell Williams, Malala Yousafzai, Zendaya, Bad Bunny, Timothée Chalamet, David Dobrik, Kevin Hart, H.E.R., Chris Harrison, Jonas Brothers featuring Karol G, Alicia Keys, Liza Koshy, Julianne Moore, Maren Morris, Kumail Nanjiani, Shaquille O’Neal, and Ben Platt.

Mental Health Help During the Covid-19 Pandemic

The American Psychiatric Association is providing an online guide to resources to help families, professionals, and community leaders address mental health challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. Click here to go directly to the APA website.

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For patients, family members or friends in need of immediate assistance:

  • Disaster Distress Helpline (SAMHSA)
    Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Link)
    Call 800-273-8255 or Chat with Lifeline
  • Crisis Textline (Link)
    Text TALK to 741741
  • Veterans Crisis Line (VA)
    Call 800-273-8255 or text 838255

 

For Families:

 

For Health Care and Community Leaders:

 

For Hospitalists and Primary Care:

 

For Psychiatrists:

With COVID-19 evolving rapidly across the world, APA’s Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disasters and the APA’s Council on International Psychiatry compiled the following list of resources for psychiatrists. The resources cover not only the physical impact of the coronavirus, but on its potential mental health and psychosocial issues and responses. The resources also include a section on telepsychiatry, to prepare for the possibility of isolation and/or quarantine.

Webinars

APA is producing webinars to provide up-to-date information as the situation evolves.

APA Spring Highlights Meeting 2020

  • Featuring psychiatry’s foremost experts and leaders, including federal mental health agency directors and APA leadership

Recordings and slide downloads from this live, virtual event are now available. Sessions include physician leadership, telepsychiatry, and healthcare worker and organizational sustainment during COVID-19.

Access Recordings

Serious Mental Illness and COVID-19: Tailoring ACT Teams, Group Homes, and Supportive Housing

  • Adina Bridges, LCSW; Kurt Cousins, M.D.; Helle Thorning, Ph.D., M.S., LCSW-R

This free townhall presentation, from a panel of SMI experts, answers questions about arising best practices being implemented by Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams, and supporting those in supportive housing or group homes.

Access Recording

How to Address COVID 19 Across Inpatient, Residential and other Non-Ambulatory Care Settings

  • Faculty: Harsh Trivedi, M.D., M.B.A.; Ryan Kimmel, M.D.; Frank A. Ghinassi, Ph.D.

In this free webinar from APA and the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare (NABH), hear from experts about how to manage different types of services, key messages to give to your team leaders, unique challenges for people with SMI, how to handle group therapy, and more.

Access Recording

Telepsychiatry in the Era of COVID-19

  • Faculty: Peter Yellowlees, MBBS, M.D.; John Torous, M.D.

This free webinar from SMI Adviser (APA & SAMHSA) offers learners an overview of how to use telemental health and video visits in the changing landscape surrounding the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

Access Recording

Managing the Mental Health Effects of COVID-19

  • Faculty: Joshua C. Morganstein, M.D., CAPT; Stephen J. Cozza, MD, COL

This free webinar from APA will outline how psychiatrists can support patients, communicate with family members and children, and be a resource to other providers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Access Recording

 

COVID-19 Psychiatric Practice Guidance

[UPDATED 4/17] APA is tracking guidance released by the Department of Health and Human Services and at the state level related to COVID-19 to assist psychiatrists with providing mental health and substance use services.

View recent changes and guidance impact telehealth, substance use disorders and treatment services, and inpatient psychiatric settings.

Learn More Here

 

APA’s Practice Management HelpLine

If you are an APA member, APA’s Practice Management HelpLine is ready to assist you with your practice management needs. Help is available on how to manage the day-to-day operations of your practice in the midst of this pandemic, including telehealth, coding, documentation, reimbursement, contracting with managed care companies, Medicare, Medicaid, and more.

Learn More Here

 

CDC Information

 

COVID-19 & Mental Health

 

New Telehealth Rules

Rules regarding the practice of telepsychiatry have changed quickly. CMS released guidance on March 17, 2020, that now allows patients to be seen via live videoconferencing in their homes, without having to travel to a qualifying “originating site” for Medicare telehealth encounters, regardless of geographic location.

To learn more about whether telepsychiatry may be a helpful option for your practice, and to access APA’s collection of resources on telepsychiatry, use the links below: