Rewriting the rules
suicide prevention efforts
BY LIZ KATYNSKI
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2012
Dr. Jitender Sareen's research has helped
save lives that might otherwise have been lost
His research has led to enhanced
community prevention programs, the
creation of a new category for suicidal
behaviour and new guidelines for how
suicides are covered in the media.
A professor of psychiatry at the University
of Manitoba's Faculty of Medicine, Sareen
launched a study into suicide among residents
of Swampy Cree First Nation in 2007.
At the time, suicide among residents
of the northern Manitoba community was
five times higher than that of the general
Canadian population. Through his research,
he discovered that issues such as substance
abuse, depression and anomie - a feeling
of being disconnected from the community
- all contributed to suicidal behaviour,
especially among young people.
As a result, community-based and familybased
interventions were developed in
partnership with the community.
So far, the results have been positive.
"We've had excellent partners in the
community. Programs are aiming to reduce
the risk of substance use and depression
in youth, and to connect people who feel
disconnected with their community," says
Through his work, Sareen has been able
to better understand the factors contributing
to suicidal behaviour. He says about 90 per
cent of people attempting suicide have a
mental disorder, but the rest do not. His
research shows that other factors, such
as panic attacks and financial stress, can
contribute to suicidal behaviour.
Based in part on his work, the American
Psychiatric Association recently introduced a
separate condition called Suicide Behaviour
Disorder-DSM-5. "The new category will
increase awareness in clinicians to carefully
assess for suicide risk," he says.
As well, after considering Sareen's
research, the Canadian Psychiatric
Association recently introduced media
guidelines for the reporting of suicides
in order to minimize the contagion
effect - people who follow through on
suicidal thoughts after seeing the suicide
of a celebrity or other person reported in a
sensational manner in the media.
"They are raising awareness of how
important it is not to report suicide in a
Back to "Research for better health"
Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.
Read the November / December 2012 issue of Wave