Tag: suicide

Can Texting Help Prevent Suicide?

Yes, “Text Message Therapy” is Real

In 2011, Stephanie Shih and Nancy Lublin formed something called the Crisis Text Line. The nonprofit is a 24/7 crisis intervention hotline. It’s also, as the name suggests, conducted solely through text message.

text message therapy

The Crisis Text Line (or CTL) traces its history back to DoSomething.org. Shih was an employee there and Lublin is the current CEO. They were galvanized into founding CTL after receiving a heart wrenching message during a routine, text based announcement.

Shih was on the receiving end of a text that said, “He won’t stop raping me.” She brought the text to Lublin and, after some brainstorming, the two decided to form CTL. The rest, as they say, is history.

I learned about the organization after reading an incredible New Yorker profile. I’ll admit, at first a “text message therapy” line sounded strange. As I read on, though, I was soon a believer in the CTL’s mission. This was due, in no small part, to some interesting facts and some unique strategies the Crisis Text Line is employing.

New research shows that suicide is contagious

Texting Has Therapeutic Benefits

If “text message therapy” sounds strange to you, well, you’re not alone. The idea of something as abbreviated as a text being able to offer meaningful therapeutic benefits is foreign to many. There are some serious benefits to text based crisis intervention, though.

Consider that a single teenager sends, on average, two thousand texts each month. Consider that teenagers maintain contact with friends through text more than any other means, including face-to-face conversations.

Consider that almost all text messages are opened. The official number stands at 98%. Consider that people are four times more likely to read a text than an email.

Consider that hard research has shown writing to have therapeutic benefit. Consider that “According to Fred Conrad, a cognitive psychologist and the director of the Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, people are ‘more likely to disclose sensitive information via text messages than in voice interviews’” (The New Yorker).

Consider that the Crisis Text Line has received over five million texts. Consider that it receives, on average, 15,000 texts each day. Consider that they’ve received texts from each and every area code in the United States.

Keeping the above facts and statistics in mind, a therapeutic technique that’s able to tap into texting seems obvious. In fact, I’m left scratching my head and wondering why no one thought of this sooner.

Add into the mix the Crisis Text Line’s approach to “text message therapy” and there’s a lot of potential for positive outcomes.

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CTL’s Unique Methods

The CTL has two unique approaches to crisis intervention. The first is how their staff actually corresponds with those who text in. The second is their research and analysis methods.

CTL counselors are trained through a seven-week course which, appropriately enough, can be done online through video conference. During their training period, counselors are taught to echo the language of those texting in. This helps put the texter at ease, as well as gain additional information about their situation.

Counselors are trained to ask open-ended questions, validate emotions/experiences, practice empathy, and point out various positive attributes. They’re discouraged from asking questions involving “why,” using overly formal language, and jumping to conclusions about a texter’s sex or sexuality.

In short, they’re trained like traditional therapists. They’re also trained in more internet savvy protocols, like using first person statements, avoiding typos, and not overusing acronyms.

crisis text line

Then, we come to the CTL’s data gathering techniques. These start at the interface that counselors use. It’s laid out similar to Facebook and highlights texts that contain words like suicide, kill, etc. It also has a helpful feature that lets counselors contact other, more experienced/specialized counselors without having to get up.

The sheer volume of texts the Crisis Text Line has received (five million) make it a goldmine for analyzing mental illness trends. Thanks to the CTL, new facts and statistics have come to light. These include things like:

  • Depression is highest in teens at 8pm

  • Anxiety is highest in teens at 11pm

  • Self-harm is highest in teens at 4am

  • Drug use is highest in teens at 5am

  • Arkansas has more teens struggling with eating disorders than any other state

  • Vermont has more teens struggling with depression than any other state

  • Montana has more teens experiencing suicidal thoughts than any other state

  • New Hampshire has fewer teens experiencing suicidal thoughts than any other state

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And that’s just what the CTL has figured out so far! Imagine the mental illness information they’ll learn as they grow! More to the point, imagine the implications this information will have on treating mental illness. The New Yorker reports,

“The organization is working on predictive analysis, which would allow counsellors [sic] to determine with a high degree of accuracy whether a texter from a particular area, writing in at a particular time, using particular words, was, say, high on methamphetamine or the victim of sex trafficking.”

In the world of evidence-based, mental health therapies, this level of information gathering is invaluable. It’s truly a revolution in mental illness treatment. It would allow counselors, CTL and otherwise, an unheard of opportunity to help patients.

Check out the Crisis Text Line’s site!

Is Suicide Contagious?

Parents Who Attempt Suicide May Pass it On to Children

children of suicide

According to a new study from the University of Pittsburg, children of parents who’ve attempted suicide are nearly five times as likely to attempt suicide themselves.

Any factor that makes someone almost five times as likely to attempt to kill themselves is serious business. Equally alarming is the fact that researchers aren’t quite sure why a parent’s suicide attempt makes children more likely to try themselves. They’ve developed some theories, but have yet to come to a definitive conclusion.

The study, published in late 2014 in the JAMA journal Psychiatry, is an attempt by scientists to learn how suicide is transmitted through families.

How is talk therapy changing suicide prevention?


New Statistics on Suicide

The study examined over 700 children (with ages ranging from ten to fifty years old) of 334 parents with mood disorders. Of the 334 parents, 191 (roughly 57%) had attempted suicide before. On average, researchers examined the children for over five years.

Researchers found that, prior to the study, just over 6% of the children had attempted suicide before. During the five years of research, another 4% attempted suicide.

Episodes of depression also increased during the course of the study. During the first two years, almost 30% of the children reported experiencing depression. By the end of five years that number rose to just over 48%.

The question that’s on my mind is why? Why are children of suicidal parents more likely to attempt to kill themselves? Why are children of suicidal parents more likely to experience depression?

New Theories on Suicide

Part of the reason for the above numbers is surely environmental. If either of my parents attempted suicide, I imagine I’d be prone to depression. If this depression was left unchecked, it’s not a stretch to imagine suicide looking like a viable option.

What else, though? Surely that can’t be the sole contributing factor to why suicide seems to run in families.

It’s not. Researchers found that mood disorders elevated suicidal ideations and the risk of a suicide attempt. They also found that impulse aggression played a large role. Interestingly enough, they found that “child maltreatment” did not play a role in familial suicide attempts.

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Suicide Prevention

What does this new information mean for preventing suicides? Or, to put it another way, how can these statistics and theories be used to save lives?

family suicide

Well, they suggest that not only is genetic and family history important, but in fact it’s vital to preventing suicide attempts. Think about it, if someone has a family history of clinical depression, with or without suicide attempts, that person is significantly more at risk for attempting suicide.

Likewise, if a family has a history of say Borderline Personality Disorder, all members of that family should undergo psychiatric evaluation. While this may sound a bit extreme, it absolutely isn’t. These evaluations may be able to not only uncover suicide risk factors for the family, but also aid ongoing suicide research.

This type of proactive research is how suicide should be treated. Rather than waiting for someone to attempt to kill themselves and going back through their family’s psychiatric history, let’s take a preemptive approach.

It’s through this hands on approach that we’ll be able to see a real impact made on reducing suicide and suicide attempts.

Learn how addiction impacts the entire family

Is Therapy Changing Suicide Treatment?

Therapy & Suicide: The New Facts

suicide and addiction

The findings of an eighteen-year, multinational study show that therapy reduces suicide rates. Okay, that sounds about right. I mean, that’s nothing we didn’t already know, right?

Wrong. Researchers from John Hopkins found that talk therapy reduced suicide attempts by 26%. That’s over one-fourth. That’s a pretty impressive number.

The study found that, at the five-year mark, participants in the therapy group attempted suicide 26% less than those in the non-therapy group. Take a minute to think about that. That’s real progress.

Also impressive were the ten-year statistics. Suicide rates were 229 out of 100,000 individuals from the therapy group. Again, that’s an impressive number.

What’s the link between shame, addiction, and suicide?

The Staggering Statistics on Suicide

If depression is “the silent killer,” then suicide is the silent assassin. Consider the following statistics:

  • Suicide kills approximately 800,000 people each year
  • Someone dies of suicide every thirteen minutes
  • Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death worldwide
  • Almost 40,000 Americans die each year as a result of suicide
  • For people aged fifteen to twenty-four, suicide is the second leading cause of death

All statistics are taken from SAVE.

It’s clear that suicide presents a major public health concern. In fact, I’d argue that it’s as big of a public health concern as anything else.

Look at how worked up the public recently became over Ebola. Suicide kills exponentially more people than Ebola, yet gets much less media attention. Why is that?

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Barriers to Suicide Treatment

If talk therapy can lower suicide rates by 26%, the question then becomes how to provide access to those who need therapy most. In other words, how can we get someone who’s depressed into therapy?

That’s the hard part. The difficulty is only compounded when you consider that addiction is also a precursor to many suicides. So, how can we offer therapy to those who are unwilling to participate? How can we, as mental health professional, help those who so desperately need our help?

Perhaps the answer lies in integrating suicide prevention into substance abuse treatment. Perhaps the answer is increased education about suicide in schools. I don’t know. I do know something needs to be done and starting a dialogue about suicide is the beginning of affecting real change.

Are you or a loved one struggling with substance abuse or mental illness? Let us help you. Contact Lighthouse Recovery Institute today!

More Kratom Controversy in South Florida

Written By: Fiona Stockard

Kratom May Soon be Illegal in Palm Beach County

will kratom soon be illegal?

The legal and often controversial drug Kratom is once again in the center of a south Florida policy debate.

Ian Mautner, a twenty year old from Boynton Beach, killed himself on July 16th. He jumped from an overpass onto I-95. Yikes. Rest peacefully, Ian.

His mother, Linda Mautner, believes Ian was addicted to Kratom and that the drug led directly to his death.

Upon searching Ian’s car, police discovered six empty packets of Kratom and two full packets. The toxicology reports haven’t yet been completed, but local officials are already calling for a ban of the substance.

Why are people posting pictures of syringes on Instagram?

Public Backlash Against Kratom Grows

Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams is leading the charge to make Kratom illegal. He’s gone on record as stating, “It struck a cord in south country, where the young man died. It is an issue we would want to address.”

Abrams is waiting until the full police and coroner’s report is released to make any formal policy announcements, though.

Earlier this year, Sarasota County passed a law banning the sale of Kratom, bath salts, and synthetic marijuana (spice). This is the latest example of local government tightening regulations on Kratom. Counties in Arizona, Vermont, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Iowa all have some form of Kratom legislation. Also, the state of Indiana has banned the sale of all Kratom alkaloids, though the plant itself is still legal to possess.

This raises two important points. First, what exactly is Kratom and why is there a country wide debate about it’s legal status? Second, should Kratom be regulated and controlled in the same manner as drugs like heroin and cocaine?

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What is Kratom Anyway?

Kratom is the popular name for the leaves of the tree Mitragyna speciosa. This is a native plant of Southeast Asia and is actually in the same family as the coffee plant.

Kratom has a long history of use by indigenous peoples. In fact, people from southern Thailand have chewed Kratom leaves for thousands of years. It’s used to treat everything from tooth pain to bad moods.

The psychoactive effects of Kratom are varied. In small doses, it gives users a stimulant type high. At larger doses, it gives users a depressant type high. This is where it becomes compared to heroin and other opioids.

The type of Kratom ingested also alters the psychoactive effects. White-vein Kratom leaf is known to produce stimulating effects. Red-vein Kratom, on the other hand, produces sedating and depressant effects.

Over the past few years, Kratom has become increasingly popular in the U.S. This is due to one major factor – the introduction of additives to Kratom powder. The most popular additive is O-Desmethyltramadol, which is actually a metabolite of Kratom itself.

When O-Desmethyltramadol is added to Kratom powder, it goes from being a restively harmless substance to being incredibly addicting. Various alkaloids are also added to Kratom powder. The most popular of these are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.

When it’s mixed with these metabolites and alkaloids, Kratom becomes much stronger and more addicting. However, should it be made illegal?

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The Legal Debate over Kratom

All across the country, Kratom’s legal status is being hotly debated. After the tragic death of Ian Mautner, south Florida is joining this debate.

The Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition is calling for more comprehensive studies to be done. They believe that Kratom poses a risk for abuse and addiction. However, the extent of that risk isn’t yet known.

Jeff Kadel, director of the PBCSAC, is quoted as saying “It basically alters your state of mind. There needs to be more science done.

On the other side of the debate, there are Kratom supporters. Peter Isaacs works at a West Palm Beach Kratom & Kava bar. He’s a vocal advocate of keeping Kratom legal. “It’s not a mind-altering thing,” Isaacs is quoted as telling the Sun-Sentinel.

So, what’s the truth? Is Kratom a dangerous new drug or a natural plant that can produce mild psychoactive effects? I’m not sure. I’m not a scientist. I also got sober before Kratom was popular, so I have no first-hand knowledge of the drug.

However, I think it’s safe to say that something needs to be done. If young adults like Ian Mautner are dying as a result of Kratom, however small a role it may have played, there should be in-depth studies conducted. Let’s let scientists explore how dangerous Kratom is or isn’t. Only then will we be able to make an informed and smart decision about its legality.

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