Is Insomnia Linked to Suicide?

Can insomnia predict suicidal behavior? Zach Simmons, a graduate student in psychology, with the help of his mentors, Gary Burlingame and Daniel Kay of the psychology department, found in a recent study that symptoms of insomnia are a more accurate predictor of suicidal behavior than thoughts of suicide.  As Simmons explains, “insomnia is associated with suicide, even after controlling depressive symptoms.”

In their study, the researchers wanted to see how suicide, suicide attempts, and non-suicidal groups have different experiences with insomnia, and if it could be a predictor of suicide even when suicidal thoughts were not self-reported.  The study used a sample of 194 patients from a mental health facility in Ogden, Utah, who died in the ten year span from 2008-2018 to find answers. These patients self-reported on suicidality and insomnia, which they defined as “trouble falling asleep or staying asleep” and “(having) thoughts of ending my life.”

Simmons and his mentors found that reports from the groups that both attempted and committed suicide reported experiencing insomnia more often than the non-suicidal group, and whether suicidal thoughts were present or not, insomnia was linked to suicidal deaths. As Simmons explains, “regardless of someone’s self-reported suicidal thoughts, including no thoughts of suicide, self-reported symptoms of insomnia were more frequent in those who died by suicide.” The important findings of this study are that “symptoms of insomnia predict suicidal behavior better than thoughts of suicide.”

So, why is it important to know that insomnia is a better indicator of suicidal behavior, and what do these findings mean for someone who experiences insomnia? Simmons explains: “For those with insomnia, this study highlights that they may be at higher risk of suicidal behavior than those who only have suicidal thoughts. It is significant that insomnia is a better indicator of suicidal behavior because insomnia is a modifiable risk factor that can be treated, and in turn, hopefully reduce suicidality.” To find out more about this important findings of this study, read the entire article here.

Dr. Brian Cannon appointed department chair of History

Dr. Brian Q. Cannon

Dr. Brian Cannon has been appointed as the new department chair of History, effective July 1, 2019. Dr. Cannon replaces Dr. Eric Dursteler, who has served as department chair since 2016.

Of the change, Dean Ben Ogles said, “We are grateful to Professor Dursteler for his effective leadership over the past 3 years and look forward to having Professor Cannon join the ranks of our college leadership team.  Professor Cannon has extensive administrative experience from his 15 years as Director of the Charles Redd Center.  We appreciate the fact that he is willing to return to administrative service by using those skills to lead the History Department.”

Brian Q. Cannon graduated from BYU with a BA in American Studies in 1984. He completed an MA in History at Utah State University in 1986 and a PhD in History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1992. Since that time he has taught at BYU. He teaches upper division courses in the American West in the Twentieth Century, Utah History, and U.S. History from 1890 to 1945. Much of his research focuses upon agricultural settlement, rural community development and federal rural policy in the twentieth century. He has received fellowships and other awards from the Western History Association, the Agricultural History Society, the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, the Ford Foundation and the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. 

Learn more about Dr. Cannon and the Department of History here.  

New Compassion Focused Therapy: Teaching vulnerability and balance for students

“The LDS culture is particularly good at [having compassion for others] but giving ourselves compassion often feels selfish,” says professor and department chair of psychology Gary Burlingame. “Receiving compassion from others is also difficult for some of us because it… doesn’t fit our self-reliant and perfectionistic values.”

Professor Burlingame and Professor Kara Cattani, Clinical Director of BYU Counseling and Psychology Services, have created a therapy model for college students based on their studies in Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT). “There are 3 flows of compassion,” says Burlingame. “Two ‘in’ (self-compassion and compassion from others) and one ‘out’ (compassion to others).”

Cattani and Burlingame’s model aims to help students move from shaming and blaming to a productive method of changing the mind. “Shame and blame are… whole-person evaluations that are negative. Shame/blame talk uses words like ‘you’re worthless, stupid, incompetent, never going to succeed’—in short, they involve global, whole person condemnation, often for a single behavioral failing.”

Especially at a place like BYU, we all are influenced by our inner critic to some extent. Accepting compassion from others and allowing ourselves to fail requires a vulnerability that might be buried beneath perfectionism. “Once a person is willing to engage in a flow which embraces one’s own vulnerability which can be uncomfortable, the second… measure is behavior activation or action. In the case of compassion from others this would look like reaching out to others—letting them know our need and being willing to receive compassion.”

Being at peace in your mind is more than loving yourself; it’s learning to allow others to love you too. Cattani and Burlingame’s therapy model opens this pathway through compassion and vulnerability. “Students had an increase in their ability to engage in difficult emotions and behaviorally balance self-criticism with self-compassion,” says Burlingame. “This was evidenced by change in bio-markers, such as heart rate variability, for those who learned to increase their compassion flows.”

As the research testifies, if everyone is deserving of empathy in their struggles, you are too. Breaking down walls is painful, but the love that can come through the holes and cracks is worth it.

“The notion of common humanity teaches us that we are part of the human race and should treat ourselves as we would treat others rather than holding ourselves to a higher standard,” says Burlingame. “We, just like our neighbor, need to receive the three flows of compassion.”

Norwegian newspaper features FHSS family history intern Annie Smith


Family: Ola Aas, head of the Friends of the Norwegian Emigrant Museum, intern Annie Smith, and managing director of the Norwegian Emigrant Museum, Terje M. Hasle Joranger, will have a spotlight on genealogy this summer. Photo: Jo E. Brenden
 

By Jo Espen Brenden

Published: 11. juni 2019, kl. 09:29

Translated by Sarah Reed

“You guys are lucky in Norway, which has good archives,” says Anne Smith. This summer, she will be working at the Emigrant Museum and helping visitors find their families.

The Norwegian Emigrant Museum has started an internship-partnership with Brigham Young University in Utah.

This summer, Annie Smith from Provo and fellow student Forrest Emmett, who will be coming later, will hold classes on family research several Saturdays in June and July. And they will give visitors who come to the museum concrete advice on how they can succeed in the search for their family history.

Want to find roots

In the United States, Smith takes concrete courses at the university on genealogy.

“Wanting to find our relatives and family history is particularly strong among us Americans. We are a nation where everyone, at one time or another, was an immigrant. Knowing who you belong to is finding out who you are. And Americans have a strong desire to seek out our roots and see how our ancestors lived,” Smith says.

She has become a genealogy expert:

“I have worked for four years with family research, and have seen a lot of Norwegian archives. I can read old handwriting, Old Norwegian, and even runes. And I have a good knowledge of American archives. So I can not only help Norwegians looking for fellow countrymen who emigrated, but I can also find relatives living in the United States today.”

What’s your tip on how to succeed in finding your family?

“It’s best to start with yourself and your immediate family. Talk to your closest relatives and see how far you can get just through good conversations. From there, you have to decide which part of your family tree that interests you most, which you can supplement with other resources,” says Smith.

“You Norwegians are lucky. You have good free archival material online, which you can search through.”

Just start

Managing Director of the Norwegian Emigrant Museum, Terje M. Hasle Joranger, is happy to have Annie on-site:

“The American students not only help us with day-to-day tasks, but they provide us with valuable expertise. They help create excitement about our museum, and can attract people to come here to visit our collections.”

Joranger says that the internship is just the start of an overseas collaboration:

“We want to actively connect the museum to institutions of higher learning in the United States. Such cooperation is mutually beneficial, not least in connection with the museum having a role as national coordinator for the 200-year anniversary of Norwegian emigration to the United States,” Smith says.

On Wednesday, June 19, the Friends of the Norwegian Emigrant Museum Association will have an evening membership meeting where Annie will talk about identity and genealogy. And the friendship association will make sure to put an extra spotlight on genealogy this summer:

“We will contribute by helping with the practicalities in addition to having some knowledge of the area,” says Ola Aas, head of Friends of the Norwegian Emigrant Museum.

“What is exciting, from our point of view, is that we’re now welcoming young people who come from the genealogy Mecca, who can see things in a completely different way than what we have done so far.”

To see the original article in Norwegian, follow this link https://www.hamar-dagblad.no/hamar/nyheter/amerikanske-annie-skal-hjelpe-folk-med-a-finne-slekten/s/5-80-60246

The BYU Civil Rights Seminar teaches students how to build “beloved communities”

Students participating in the BYU Civil Rights Seminar.

A group of students with majors ranging from English to public health to civil engineering are on a mission to create “beloved communities”. This semester, students of varying racial backgrounds enrolled in the Civil Rights Seminar course and traveled to Alabama and Georgia, where they felt the weight of the Civil Rights movement’s legacy at historical sites, monuments and memorials.

While progress has been made for minorities who have been persecuted in the past, this class sees room for improvement and awareness at BYU and beyond. With percentages of only 1% African American and 82% Caucasian students, BYU has a ways to go in representation.

The purpose of the course was to “Explore frameworks, concepts, models, and examples from the Civil Rights Movement that individual students can utilize as they grapple with the courageous, difficult, and complex history of race relations in the United States.”

After a semester of reading and discussion, the class set off for the South. In the heartland of the Civil Rights movement, students visited sites such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace, the Rosa Parks Museum, and Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

The class not only observed the influence of the movement, but interacted with those who’d been a part of it. Students had private meetings with Martin Luther King Jr.’s barber, one of the original Freedom Riders, a participant in the 1963 Birmingham “Children’s Crusade” and a white pastor of an all-black congregation who worked with King and was a neighbor and pastor to Rosa Parks.

From the teachings of Revered Martin Luther King Jr., this class has adopted a purpose for themselves and their fellow BYU students: to create beloved communities where people love and serve as Christ did. More specifically, their goal is to increase cultural awareness and appreciation for diversity at BYU.

“If the world is truly our campus, then we should be discussing the world and its issues,” says a member of the seminar. Having more required conversations at BYU about racial injustice in America and the world would help students as they move on in their careers and education. Knowing the nature of the world, students would be more equipped to “go forth and serve” when they leave BYU.

“Students can get involved with diverse groups on campus such as Tribe of Many Feathers or the Black Student Union,” says Sociology Professor Ryan Gabriel. This is only one of the many ways students can contribute to a beloved community and broaden their view of human experience. “Additionally, they can take courses that emphasize diverse history and experience.”

To learn more about the Civil Rights Seminar and how to apply to participate in 2020, visit the program webpage.