Two Suicide Prevention Methods

By Net. No, that’s not internet. Psych Central has an interesting article about the San Francisco suicide prevention net to be placed under the Golden Gate Bridge. There had been talk about building various barriers, but the net is the one solution that doesn’t block tourists’ view of the bridge. It has been observed that such barriers do not increase the rate of suicide at nearby bridges — suggesting that suicide attempts by jumping tend to be impulsive, rather than premeditated.

By Video. The high rate of suicide in the military is not news, but video prevention is a fairly new method of treatment. The department of defense has been tinkering with a video game for treating soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Washington Post ran this story on a new anti-suicide video game last week.

Alarmed by a record rate of suicide in its ranks, the Army yesterday unveiled a unique prevention tool — an interactive video to be mandatory viewing Army-wide — in which soldiers will play the role of an anguished infantryman and make virtual choices that lead the
character to get help or, in the worst case, shoot himself in the head.

And the Post article included some of the all-too-familiar statistics:

The video is one of several initiatives launched by the Army to try to stem the suicide rate among active-duty soldiers. That rate increased from 12.4 per 100,000 in 2003, when the Iraq war started, to 18.1 per 100,000 last year.

This year, 93 active-duty soldiers killed themselves through the end of August, the latest data show. A third of those cases are under investigation by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner’s Office. In all of 2007, 115 soldiers committed suicide. Suicide attempts by soldiers have also increased since 2003.

Perils of a Colorblind Psychotherapeutic Approach

In my training one thing that was hammered into us again and again is the importance of addressing diversity immediately and directly. This idea was challenged by an psychoanalytic supervisor who opined, “you’re going to scare her away” — by addressing the issue of race. Fortunately, this gentleman does not represent psychoanalysis.

I do believe that addressing the issue of race directly goes a long way to establishing trust and respect. Some of us have the luxury of ignoring issues of race (or pretending to). Some of us don’t realize we have the luxury. Addressing difference is important. The research backs this up.

In my own practice, people are sometimes taken aback when race is addressed directly. Later, they often say it was very helpful.

Recent issue of the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology includes: “Seeing Race and Seeming Racist? Evaluating Strategic Colorblindness in Social Interaction.” If you take the time to wade through the academese, there are some important points about race and social interaction.

From the abstract:

One strategy practiced by many Whites to regulate the appearance of prejudice during social interaction is to avoid talking about race, or even acknowledging racial difference. Four experiments involving a dyadic task investigated antecedents and consequences of this tendency. Observed colorblindness was strategic in nature: Whites’ acknowledgment of race was highly susceptible to normative pressure and most evident among individuals concerned with self-presentational aspects of appearing biased (Study 1). However, this tendency was often counterproductive, as avoiding race during interracial interaction predicted negative nonverbal behavior (Study 1), a relationship mediated by decreased capacity to exert inhibitory control (Study 2).


The present investigation identifies several factors that impact both the practice and the perception of a colorblind approach to social interaction. These studies demonstrate that the social consequences of Whites’ efforts to avoid talking about race differ depending on who their interaction partner is, how this partner talks about race, and the context in which this interaction takes place. Perhaps most notably, across four studies the data converge on the conclusion that White individuals’ intuitions regarding effective strategies for navigating the perceived minefield that is race-relevant interaction are sometimes inaccurate and can even be counterproductive. Whereas the attainment of a truly colorblind society remains an objective to which many continue to aspire, bending over backward to avoid even mere mention of race can create more problems than it solves.

Transmission of Depression

A fascinating article in The American Journal of Psychiatry concerning the transmission of depression from parents to their children and implications for treatment.

First, they provide strong evidence that depression is a family matter. The division of our field into adult and child psychiatry often works against best treatment practices…. <snip> Second,
within this family perspective, the clinician has exceptional opportunities not only for more precise clinical assessment and improved treatment but also for prevention…. <snip> Third, clinical trials of antidepressants or of psychotherapy with patients who are parents should
include, when possible, assessments of both the marriage and the children. It is astonishing that our field has gone for almost half a century, after the first randomized controlled trials of the pharmacotherapy of major depression, without inquiring about the effects of these treatments on the children. We are still waiting.