Episode 118 - Dr. Jonathan Singer: The Use of Creative Arts as a Community-Based Suicide Prevention Effort

Monday, April 29, 2013, 9:02:50 AM

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In this episode, Dr. Jonathan Singer describes his work drawing on the creative arts that by its nature is a community-based effort at preventing suicide. He argues that traditional prevention efforts, while effective at addressing the stigma associated with suicide on a person-at-a-time basis, do little to address the larger public stigma that is so prevalent and alienating for this population.

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Average Rating: 5stars  how communal art projects can be successful preventing suicide, Sunday, February 09, 2020

By Jim Heffernan :

Suicide rates in the United States are something we cannot ignore. Dr. Singer’s research revealed that the individual level of suicide prevention is not enough. What creative arts projects are attempting is the communal sense of how suicide can be addressed and prevented. Primarily, the stigma that suicide has can discourage individuals from coming forward and asking for help, but focusing not only on the individual but also the communal sense can raise awareness and build support within the community. All creative arts endeavors can help bring people considering suicide to feel hope and an escape from isolation to get them through difficult times in their lives. The alarming statistics regarding the amount of suicides per year has shown that current methods are not enough to show a decrease. Current practices focus on the individual, and the tools that practitioners have relied on come in the form of questionnaires. This can expose a lot of suicidal thoughts in the patient, leading to some individuals to pursue counseling. While this can be helpful to some individuals, it does not alleviate the stigma that society has on suicide. People are ashamed and that only can further perpetuate suicidal ideations. Dr. Singer’s communal approach came in the form of a public art mural in Philadelphia raising awareness about suicide to the public and encouraging individuals affected by suicide to contribute. Secondly, his online storytelling blog has created a platform for people to add stories and pull people out of isolation. The blog and mural are connecting people. Increased confidence, happiness, and relief can come from contributing to a common objective and goal. Art can help us communicate our feelings when talking about them can be too difficult. While the communal approach to suicide prevention has experienced some success, it is important to note that suicide still exists and it is the second highest cause of death for teenagers.

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Average Rating: 5stars  a creative approach with broad application, Saturday, January 31, 2015

By ellen krebs :

The statistics on the rates of suicide cited by Dr. Singer offer a compelling justification for taking a new macro community approach to suicide prevention. The use of creative arts is a very non-threatening way to open up a public dialogue on what has previously been a taboo subject for many people. I found Dr. Singer's ideas on the use of creative arts with the military particularly interesting. A military web site for story telling would address two key barriers to working with the military population, feelings of isolation and veteran's perceptions that they cannot show or admit to any weakness. A story telling web site could help address feelings of isolation and provide an opportunity to share thoughts or experiences with other veterans without the fear of stigma. Given the high number of suicides occurring among veterans, the military may provide the research sample necessary to establish the effectiveness of this new approach to suicide prevention.

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Average Rating: 5stars  worth listening to, Wednesday, May 07, 2014

By Janice Ferguson :

In listening to Dr. Jonthan Singer talk about the alarmingly high rates of suicide in our youth was astonishing. I do agree with Dr. Singer that the sensitivity of suicide, as with other mental health issues, often contributes to under-reporting. I feel that by masking this very important issue has mislead evaluations of national and local suicide prevention strategies. If the rate of suicide has gone up after years of decline, as Dr. Singer reports, then communities and service providers are not doing a good enough job in prevention and more needs to be done. I appreciate that Dr. Singer has shifted this issue from the individual level to the macro level. By involving the community to reduce the stigma of suicide is a beautiful transition. I believe that this movement will allow relationships to be built and connections will be made among program participants and will hopefully decrease the sense of isolation for individuals who have suicidal ideations or who have made attempts. This creative arts program that Dr. Singer has researched and incorporated into a community reminds me of when I worked with an Aboriginal Community in 2009. They shared with me that they have witnessed the healing power of visual art, dance, music, drama, and storytelling for millennia within their communities. I look forward to talking with my colleagues about incorporating both Dr. Singer’s and the Aboriginal communities holistic creative arts community based program into my own community. This is a great podcast worth listening to, thank you Dr. Singer. Let’s keep educating and creating awareness for change!

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Average Rating: 5stars  awareness through art, Monday, February 10, 2014

By Anni Gruttadaro :

I was really moved and inspired by Dr. Singer’s discussion about his work with the Community Mural Project and the Storytelling Website that focus on suicide prevention. Dr. Singer shares some painful statistics on suicide, in particular that the numbers of deaths by suicide are increasing and also that it is one of the leading causes of death among teens and young adults. This is motivation enough to know that more preventative measures are needed to combat these alarming statistics. As it was mentioned, suicide prevention is primarily addressed at the individual level yet stigma of suicidal thought or action is a public issue and should also be approached in that way. Through these interactive projects, Dr. Singer demonstrated different kinds of public forum to use to create support and raise awareness in our own communities. Sharing stories and experiences with others through the website or while creating art, works to break down stigma and negativity around sensitive topics like this one through community education. The mural is a piece of art created by and for the community, which draws necessary attention to this issue. Art is an expressive way to speak your mind and connect with others, which really fits into the person-centered and creative way we help others through social work practice. These interactive ways to get people involved and aware of issues left me feeling very inspired to be a part of projects like these in the near future.

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Average Rating: 5stars  empowering each other to foster change., Sunday, February 02, 2014

By S. Allen :

In this podcast Dr. Singer delivers a message that is as captivating and moving, as it is educational and important. The projects Dr. Singer speaks about illustrate the importance of critical thinking, flexibility and creativity in human services work. The Human Rights and Trauma Informed perspective, taught at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, asks one to think about the importance of how we look at the individuals we work with. This podcast relates well to such a perspective by providing an example of how a small shift, in how a client is framed or a problem is defined, can open the door to a wide array of new potential solutions. A shift in focus from the individual to the community has a powerful impact in regards to suicide. The stigma surrounding suicide keeps many from talking about their experience or seeking help, even when they could benefit from either action. An individual focus where questions center on why someone became suicidal, as Dr. Singer suggests, can strengthen that stigma and blame a victim more than help them. The creative-arts community based programs that Dr. Singer and his colleagues developed worked to counteract this repressive stigma. The projects were designed to counteract many of the social and emotional factors correlated with suicide crises. These projects also show how macro level social intervention may seem a daunting or challenging task but can be very doable. The creative arts approach that Dr. Singer and his colleagues used was particularly empowering, because it allowed the community members to take an active role in the development of the intervention. The benefit of this method increases through the website, where the community of individuals all coming together around this one issue can expand beyond physical limits. This podcast is a worthwhile listen for anyone. From an ecological perspective, reaches every area of social work practice and in methods is beneficial for those interested in macro work.

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Average Rating: 4stars  my sympathies, Monday, April 29, 2013

By Laura :

Dear Anonymous,

Our society really does have a long way to go. Thanks for sharing your personal experience.

I'm very sorry for your loss.

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Average Rating: 3stars  social workers also need to be comfortable dealing with suicide, Monday, April 29, 2013

By Anonymous :

Another important point on this topic is that social workers and other human service professionals need to be comfortable (and in some cases need education) about dealing with suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The same is true for primary care physicians who are often the first point of contact for a depressed and suicidal individual. Physicians sometimes simply ask "are you planning to commit suicide?" and if the answer given is "no"- end of screening. Usually, they hand over a script and say nothing. Having had more than one suicide in our family, I have been shocked to learn how many professional colleagues will not make eye contact with me or say anything when I share that a relative committed suicide. I believe in putting the issue on the table instead of keeping it a secret. Assessing lethality issues seem to need greater attention in social work and human service education. And as Dr. Singer pointed out, prevention and removing the stigma is also very important.

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