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SBRL Blog: ESSSB17 - It’s great to feel part of the suicide research community

posted Sep 18, 2018, 6:33 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Sep 19, 2018, 1:33 AM ]


A contingent from the Suicidal Behaviour Research Lab had the pleasure of attending the 17th European Symposium on Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour (ESSSB17) held in the beautiful city of Ghent (Belgium) from 5th to 8th September. Bringing together multi-disciplinary suicide researchers, clinicians, policy-makers and those with lived experience from across Europe and internationally, the event was organised by VLESP (under the leadership of Gwendolyn Portzky & Kees van Heeringen), who are the Flemish Centre of Expertise in Suicide Prevention and a partner organisation of the Flemish Government. Indeed, it was clear from the conference that suicide prevention is a key priority for the Flemish Government. Although the Minister responsible for mental health was unfortunately unable to attend, the government had a presence at the event. Interestingly
, the opening ceremony included a very personal talk and performance from Belgian musician Selah Sue, patron of the “Te Gek!?” campaign to get young people to talk about mental health, highlighting her own battles with depression and suicidal thoughts. This was very touching and a fitting opening to Europe’s leading suicide research conference that attracted more than 600 delegates

Musician Selah Sue, patron of "Te Gek?!"

As an early career researcher (ECR) attending conferences such as these can be daunting, as often you feel overwhelmed and out of place among more experienced researchers. However, the conference felt very inclusive, had a relaxed atmosphere that made it easier to talk to and interact with other researchers. This was aided by ECR-specific events, organised by IASP ECR group and Net ECR respectively, bringing together ECRs from different research labs and universities to support each other as well as have some fun! The oral parallel and poster sessions included work from many PhD and post doc researchers, and this added to feeling valued and included in what can be an intimidating setting. 

The presentations covered a vast range of perspectives and research methods; from basic science to interventions and epidemiology. The plenary sessions had engaging keynotes from many established researchers, including from the SBRL’s director Rory O’Connor. His talk focused on research currently being conducted within SBRL and in collaboration with colleagues nationally and internationally; he highlighted findings from the Scottish Wellbeing Study emphasising the role of entrapment in predicting future suicidal ideation as well as the importance of volitional phase factors in differentiating between those who think about suicide and those who attempt suicide. A keynote by David Gunnell (Bristol) included a discussion of trends in suicide and self-harm globally, highlighting that the majority of suicides happen in low and middle income countries, although most research is conducted in more affluent countries. Keith Hawton’s (Oxford) talk covered research aimed at community means restriction, highlighting his seminal research demonstrating that reducing the size of paracetamol packets has saved many people’s lives in the UK. There were also inspiring plenary talks by Alexandra Pitman (London) on future directions for suicide bereavement policy, and Jane Pirkis on the development of the internet and suicide prevention information upon it (Melbourne).The final day of the conference included the last talk by Ad Kerkhof before his retirement, wherein he highlighted advances in psychosocial treatments for suicidal patients including the targeting of mental imagery. 

A number of talks focussed on the media reporting of suicide and the negative effect that this can have upon subsequent suicide trends, although cautionary there was some hopeful discussion of the Papageno effect (Thomas Niederkrotenthaler, Vienna), whereby positive reporting can have a protective influence. Indeed, a highlight of the conference was a symposium organised by Ellen Townsend (and including Rory O’Connor, Tiago Zortea, ex-SBRLer Olivia Kirtley) on engaging the public with research, highlighting the potential benefits of blogs, twitter, TV appearances and public engagement initiatives such as Café Connect. It was clear that there was much to be gained from harnessing both traditional and social media platforms to promote and disseminate research to help shape how society views and understands suicide and self-harm. As well as helping break down the stigma attached to suicide, it can help people know how to talk to those who are suicidal and hopefully change how people think about and communicate about suicide.


Tiago Zortea presenting his PhD findings on attachment.







As well as talks by Rory O’Connor, the conference included talks and posters on the research of other SBRL members. This included findings from Tiago Zortea’s research on how perceptions of past parenting influenced future attachment styles and how this influences feelings of defeat and entrapment. Seonaid Cleare discussed her findings of an experimental study investigating how a self-compassion meditation influences autobiographical memory in those who have a self-harm history. I also presented my own PhD research which highlighted that among those with a suicidal history making unfavourable social comparisons on social
media may lead to feelings of defeat. Additionally, Dave Sandford presented a poster of his systematic review on the impact that losing a patient to suicide can have on mental health professionals. The opportunity to present our research was appreciated and the feedback received from others was positive, which is very motivating and validating. 




Dave Sandford's poster on the impact of the death of a patient by suicide upon mental health practicioners






Seonaid Cleare presenting her PhD findings on self-compassion.








Karen Wetherall presenting her PhD findings on social comparison on Facebook.









Overall, the conference was a really enjoyable experience that exposed me to a wide range of interesting, rigorous and thoughtful research that spanned the many different disciplines that make up the field of suicide research. Often the difficulty was on deciding which session to attend! The social highlight of the event has to be the ESSSB band comprised entirely of suicide researchers (including ex-SBRL member Olivia Kirtley on drums together with Kees van Heeringen, Ellen Townsend, Derek de Beurs and Erkki Isometsa) who made their debut performance at the conference dinner; it was a great surprise and they were brilliant! (Check them out on twitter). It is great to see how researchers of different countries, stages and disciplines come together at conferences - it really helps ECRs to feel part of a supportive suicide research community.


by Karen Wetherall (PhD student and Researcher in SBRL)

Our mental health: We need more stories like Ruth Davidson's

posted Sep 16, 2018, 10:55 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Sep 16, 2018, 11:33 AM ]


I awoke this morning to see a timeline full of tweets about Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson’s admission (in a Sunday Times Magazine interview including an extract from her forthcoming book) that she struggled with her mental health 20 years ago; that she had self-harmed and had been suicidal.  Here are some quick thoughts.

Irrespective of your political allegiance (incidentally, I have never voted Conservative), this feels important. Someone who could potentially be First Minister of Scotland talking openly about her mental health, this is another step forward in our national discourse.  Mental health problems can and do affect all of us. Sadly, self-harm and suicidal thoughts are all too common in Scotland.  In a recent study of ours, one in nine 18-35 years olds reported having attempted suicide and one in six told us that they had engaged in self-harm at least once in their lives.

Part of me was surprised by Davidson’s admission given her public persona but another part of me wasn’t – about a decade ago she interviewed me for BBC Radio Scotland about a study on adolescent self-harm.  I remember being struck by her self-assured smile and also that she got-it; she seemed genuinely interested in adolescent mental health. It is evident now that she had personal insight.  Like many of us, Davidson’s outward public persona – gregarious, strong and driven – masks (or is a consequence of) a history of psychological pain. It is worth reminding ourselves every now and then that none of us know what is hidden behind a smile.

The ripples following suicide are vast, stretching way beyond close family and friends.  Davidson talks about a boy from her village who took his own life when she was 17 and although she doesn’t know why his death affected her so deeply she “went into a total tailspin.”  The fact that someone’s death, not a relative or a close friend can have such a profound impact on Davidson is consistent with the research evidence on ‘exposure to suicide’. The latest research estimates that, for every suicide death, 135 people are ‘exposed’ (knew the person who died) and some may need clinical help or support. Also, the effect of this exposure can be long-lasting.  Today is especially poignant for me. 10 years ago to the day, I lost a close, close friend to suicide.   Even after all these years, the pain of this loss is still raw; such that I’ve been taken aback by how emotional I’ve been in the lead up to the anniversary.  Davidson’s story and my own personal experience remind me why it is so important that we support those bereaved by suicide and never assume anyone’s mental health.

 “It was like a smothering black blanket over my head, cutting out the sky. It was heavy, constricting, suffocating. It took away hope and energy and life” Ruth Davidson

Davidson’s description of her depression as a black blanket powerfully captures the cognitive constriction or tunnel vision that often characterises those who are suicidal: being overwhelmed, exhausted, trapped, without any hope of rescue.  Sadly for approximately 700 people in Scotland each year, the impossibility of seeing a positive future, of perceiving no reasons to live, of feeling a burden on others and this unrelenting sense of disconnection come together in a perfect storm of entrapment that contributes to their suicide. As today marks the end of World Suicide Prevention Week, it is timely to highlight this year’s theme: Working Together To Prevent Suicide.  We all have a role to play in reducing entrapment, reaching out, promoting connectedness and challenging mental health stigma.  Davidson has made a welcome contribution to challenging that stigma by speaking out. We need more stories like Davidson’s.

Ultimately Davidson’s story is one of hope. If you are reading this and are in a dark place, overwhelmed by the ‘black blanket’; though it is hard to believe it now, convinced that things will never change, that you’ll never recover and that the pain will never end.  It does. It can. And it will.

The last line of the interview, to me, is the show-stopper: “It’s being happy, Decca. That’s what it’s about.  I haven’t always been happy. And what a difference it makes.”  It is vital, truly a matter of life and death, that we do not take our mental health for granted.   Without our mental health, what do we have? We need to work on it, nurture it, protect it.

Rory O'Connor

16th September 2018

Horizon: Stopping Male Suicide

posted Aug 30, 2018, 6:03 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Aug 30, 2018, 6:49 AM ]

As part of the new Horizon: Stopping Male Suicide documentary, Dr Xand Van Tulleken travelled to Scotland (to a wet and cold Loch Lomond) to interview Rory O'Connor about why three quarters of all suicides in the UK are by men.  The programme was first broadcast on 22nd August 2018 on BBC2. Rory talks briefly about some of the work being conducted within SBRL and about the importance of asking directly whether someone is suicidal or not. It could save their life!

Xand wrote a recent article about the programme which can be found here



Podcast & new open access paper on IMV model

posted Jul 16, 2018, 12:50 PM by Karen Wetherall


Rory O'Connor & Olivia Kirtley (KU Leuven) publish latest version of Integrated Motivational-Volitional Model of Suicidal Behaviour (IMV model) in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.  Paper available here.


Also, check out Rory O'Connor's new 10 min podcast about IMV model below  ⏬

YouTube Video


Review of Matt Haig’s latest book Notes on a Nervous Planet

posted Jun 30, 2018, 10:22 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Jul 2, 2018, 3:29 AM ]

Rory O'Connor's Notes on Matt Haig’s latest book Notes on a Nervous Planet

I was delighted to find Notes on a Nervous Planet (Canongate) on the shelves of WH Smith at Gatwick Airport on Tuesday (a little ahead of 5th July, the scheduled publication date). I am a big fan of Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig’s personal memoir about suicide risk, depression and anxiety.  I was keen to see what Matt would do next with the RTSA follow-up. And I wasn’t disappointed. Here are my notes (see what I did there Jon a NOANP including some brief thoughts that came to mind as I read the book.

I had the pleasure of doing two book festivals with Matt when RTSA was published a couple of years ago. And I remember joking with him at the Cheltenham Literature Festival (where I interviewed him on stage about RTSA) that when I had agreed to interview him I hadn’t yet read his book - and was concerned that it would be another wishy-washy self-help book – which, if true, would have made our gig together a tad tricky! Thankfully it wasn’t; it was eloquent, touching and it really resonated with me, like it did for countless thousands of others.  Indeed, I know of many people who struggle with living daily who have said that RTSA has helped them while in their own tunnels of despair.

On Tuesday, when I got my hands on NOANP, I had a slightly different concern. Would his writing resonate with me again and live up to the promise/delight of RTSA? I am pleased to say that it does – but it is different; in some ways it is a follow-up to RTSA, delivering a personal narrative interweaved with general observations but in other ways it is not, as it goes much further beyond his personal experience than in RTSA, drawing more on research (and other) evidence.  I also felt that it had more of an explicit self-help feel to it.   No bad thing, though. It also covers the challenges of modern life, which other books do, but he does so in an accessible, personal and engaging way.

I read NOANP in one extended sitting today (accompanied by seemingly unending Glaswegian sunshine which I spent the morning and afternoon trying to avoid burning in).  So, what follows are my very immediate reflections (with little editing, so apologies for any typos etc).  Unlike RTSA, NOANP focuses on how “the world is messing with our minds” and offers suggestions on how we can be happier in a chaotic and technologically-driven world.  Climate change, social media, psychology, social comparison, fake news, cosmetic surgery, loneliness, work, phones, the sky and psycho-grams all get a mention.

Like RTSA, Matt draws upon his own experiences of anxiety, panic disorder and depression - and much more besides. His descriptions of his own struggles are beautifully written and emotion-laden; once again conveying the complexity of his, as well as all of our mental health.  Late in the book, the importance of keeping everyday concerns in perspective is brought home to him when his mother undergoes major surgery.

Nobody writes lists better than Matt Haig does.  I wish I could write lists like Matt Haig does.

Even when Matt is writing about something that we already know (e.g., the pros and cons of living in a more connected world, the internet and so on.), he always manages to make me think anew about it – and through his eloquent prose, I cannot help but reconsider how it affects my life and my world. 

Two observations from NOANP:

Distraction isn’t a long-term solution.

Life is not a tequila to be slammed.

A personal observation: Everyone should read Bonjour Tristesse (by Francoise Sagan) which is mentioned a couple of times in NOANP. I read it for A-Level French and I can still remember being transfixed by it: I learned about sadness and the appreciation of living from reading it. It was clearly also a big hit with Matt!

As the title of the book suggests, some of chapters are brief, personal observations – notes – and others are much longer, integrating concerns about the world with evidence. I really liked the mix as I did in RTSA. I especially like the imagery that some of the brief chapters evoke (e.g., ‘A note from the beach’, ‘Maybe’). Similar to RTSA, each chapter has a standalone message, as well as contributing to the broader narrative of navigating a messy world in hopefully a safer and more meaningful way.  There is something for all of us in the book.

Best phrase: “invisible cyclone” to describe a panic attack.

Best chapter title: “The mannequins who inflict pain” (or “I am what I am what I am”).

Good advice: “Never let a stranger’s negative opinion of you become your own negative opinion of you.” p.229

Made me smile: Matt describing when his wife Andrea chastises him for being on the internet: “She held up her palm. ‘Okay. I don’t want the TED talk.’” p.98.

NOANP in 8 words: stimulating, compassionate, thoughtful, engaging, human, hope, perspective, wellbeing 

Key messages for me from NOANP: 

1   Uncertainty is a certainty and that’s okay. 

2   Be in the now, not yesterday or tomorrow 

Conclusion: I always learn and feel more from reading Matt Haig. And it makes me a better person. Bookshops are a much better place as a result of his work. If RTSA was for you, then so is NOANP. So go buy it.

 Rory O’Connor

 30th June 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Insight: What tips men over the edge of despair?

posted Jun 1, 2018, 3:00 PM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Jun 1, 2018, 3:04 PM ]



Check out Dani Garavelli's recent long read article on male suicide that was published in Scotland on Sunday recently. She interviewed a range of contributors including SBRL's Rory O'Connor (pictured below; photo credit: John Devlin). 

"The suicide rate among men is on the risk again.  Dani Garavelli asks why so many wait so long to find support and treatment for depression."  Read the full article here. 


Ask The UofG Expert – Suicide Research & Prevention

posted May 7, 2018, 11:55 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated May 15, 2018, 12:19 PM ]



Professor Rory O’Connor, Director of the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory, was live on the UofG Facebook page on Wednesday 9 May to answer any questions about suicide research and prevention.
MVLS Communications Officer Elizabeth McMeekin interviewed Rory and asked him your questions on Facebook.  

This was the second in the series of ‘Ask the UofG Expert’ live facebook videos. 

The series aims to provide an interactive platform to allow audiences to engage with our research.

The Facebook Live Q&A is available to watch again here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in our Facebook Live and would like to talk to someone, please reach out. Support is available at any of the following places


Samaritans:  https://www.samaritans.org/branches/samaritans-glasgow

Free and available 24 hours a day to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide.


Breathing Spacehttp://breathingspace.scot/

Free and confidential phoneline service for any individual, who is experiencing low mood or depression, or who is unusually worried and in need of someone to talk to. The phoneline is open 24 hours at weekends (6pm Friday - 6am Monday) and from 6pm to 2am on weekdays (Monday - Thursday).

You may also wish to contact your GP or another healthcare professional.

New paper on Integrated Motivational-Volitional (IMV) Model

posted Mar 23, 2018, 7:57 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Mar 23, 2018, 7:58 AM ]

In a new paper, Rory O'Connor and Olivia Kirtley provide their latest thinking on the Integrated Motivational-Volitional Model (IMV) of suicidal behaviour including some refinements of the model since its original exposition in 2011 (see Figures 1 & 2, below).  They describe the theoretical origins of the IMV model, the key premises underpinning the model, empirical tests of the model and future research directions.






New blog by SBRL member Tiago Zortea

posted Feb 15, 2018, 2:23 AM by Karen Wetherall

Suicide research without borders: The travel diary of a ‘SBRL ambassador’

When people ask me where I am from, I always play a game and ask them back where do you think I am from. After some guessing, I generally say that ‘I am half Italian, half Portuguese but born in Brazil’. But I also speak Spanish, live in Scotland and have a Glaswegian heart! Although this might sound like an identity crisis, I must admit that it is very nice to have so many influences and being able to communicate in different languages, learning and celebrating diversity. As a researcher, this not only helps me to learn from what has been published in the countries where those languages are spoken, but it also opens doors for collaborations and new friendships within our field. At the beginning of 2018, I was lucky enough to collaborate with Brazilian and Portuguese suicide researchers and clinicians, which made feel like a ‘SBRL (Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory) ambassador’ in parts of the Portuguese-speaking world.

 My collaboration trip started on the 13th January in the city of Vitoria (Brazil). Since I am a clinical psychologist researching suicidal behaviour, I was invited by a Brazilian clinician, Diego Souza, to deliver a workshop on psychotherapy with patients at suicide risk. Over 90 clinicians including psychiatrists and clinical psychologists attended. Practical procedures on clinical intervention were taught through the lens of the IMV model of suicidal behaviour and, for the first time in Brazil, David Jobes’ CAMS approach (Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality) was presented as a new programme with a growing evidence base to work with patients who are suicidal. The workshop was extremely productive: lots of knowledge exchange and very good feedback from attendees.

My second stop was on the 20th January in the biggest city of Brazil – São Paulo – where I was invited by the Dialectica Psychotherapy Institute to give a workshop on single interventions with patients following a suicide attempt who had been discharged from emergency departments or discharged from psychiatric inpatient care. More than 40 clinical psychologists and psychiatrists attended the course where, also for the first time in the country, Gregory Brown’s and Barbara Stanley’s Safety Planning Intervention (SPI) was presented as a tool for this modality of intervention. Theoretically, the SPI was framed as working on volitional moderators within the IMV model, acting to reduce the likelihood of suicidal thoughts to be translated into a suicide attempt. In the workshop, I also mentioned the current SBRL SAFE TEL project and that we are looking forward to learning about the results of this important work. Finally, my last course in the country was in Brasilia (Capital of Brazil) on the 26-27 January at the invitation of the Atitude Courses Institute. I delivered the same workshop as I had done in Vitoria with about 50 clinicians in attendance. My time in Brazil has been very constructive and positive, and I left the country with quite few other invitations to return next year - which is really exciting.

My final trip was to my mum’s homeland – Portugal. As a result of attending IASR ECR’s Breakfast in Las Vegas, I had the pleasure of meeting Professor José Carlos Santos, from the University of Coimbra, Portugal. Over the past 10 years, Prof Santos’ lab in Coimbra has conducted important research projects within suicidology - indeed one of them is a key reference for the first empirical study of my thesis! After the conference in Vegas, Prof Santos kindly invited me to be one of the speakers at the International Winter Seminar on Suicidology, organised by him and his lab in Coimbra. The event was extremely productive, informative and thought-provoking, with speakers from different parts of Portugal, Brazil - and me representing Scotland. It was very nice to learn about different research and intervention projects, including Prof Santos’ lab’s huge suicide prevention programme, +Contigo, which has been conducted in Portuguese schools with impressive results. My talk presented the results of the first empirical study from my PhD which is investigating perceptions of past parenting and attachment as diatheses for suicidal ideation within the context of the IMV model. The seminar finished with plans of collaboration and an invitation from me to our 3rd EMCR Forum in the summer in Glasgow.

What is next? Well, next is a thesis to finish writing up and I can say that all these experiences were unique, and they boosted my energy to finish my PhD this year! I want to thank all Brazilian researchers and clinicians who made those workshops in South America possible, to Prof Santos for such a kind invitation and with whom I learned so much, and finally to my supervisor Rory O’Connor who supported my desire to collaborate internationally within the Portuguese speaking world.

Obrigado a todos!

Tiago Zortea

Registration open for EMCR Forum 2018

posted Jan 16, 2018, 4:03 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Jan 16, 2018, 5:18 AM ]


Registration for the Early and Mid-Career Researcher (EMCR) Forum is open! Book your place by going to the information page 
here.

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