NPR: How Do You Help Someone Who Is At Risk Of Suicide?
NPR talked with Harkavy-Friedman and Dr. Jitender Sareen of the University of Manitoba, both psychiatrists, about what is known about youth suicide and best practices for preventing suicide. Harkavy-Friedman studies teen suicide prevention, and Sareen studies suicide trends among Native people in the Arctic.
Dr. Jitender Sareen: In native communities here in Canada and in the U.S., unfortunately young people have a much higher risk of suicide — often five or six times as high as the general population. Men commit suicide more often than women — that’s true almost everywhere. [Although it’s unclear why this is, it may be related to access to weapons or greater impulsiveness.] We’ve also seen instances where multiple young people enter suicide pacts, and there can be a contagion effect especially among youth. The underlying issues that lead to those crises are related to lack of basic things like clean water, housing and jobs. A lot of young people are impoverished and do not see any path to a good future.
Dr. Jill Harkavy-Friedman: It’s also important for people to understand that suicide is not native to any culture. It’s what happens to people when they’re in situations of increased stress. So the high rate of suicide in Greenland, for example, doesn’t say anything inherent about the culture. Actually, in the United States and most places, the highest-risk group for suicide are middle-aged [people] and the elderly. Fortunately, teen suicide rates in the U.S. are significantly lower, though teen suicide is still of concern.