* course numbers may vary by facility
National Suicide Prevention Week, sponsored by the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), has been observed every year since 1975. This year’s observation occurs September 5 through 11 and corresponds with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) estimates that suicide in the U.S.:
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 77% of people who die by suicide are seen by their primary care physician within one year of death and 45% are seen within the month — most for reasons unrelated to suicide or mental health. However, the rate of detecting patients’ suicidal thoughts (also known as suicide ideation) at the point of care is extremely low. The Joint Commission urges clinicians in primary, emergency and behavioral health to implement the following practices:
Suicidal risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that an individual will consider, attempt or die by suicide. Clinicians should be familiar with these risk factors and take appropriate steps to ensure patient safety. According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, risk factors include:
Most people who die by suicide exhibit warning signs. The more signs a person shows, the greater the risk. A change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors, especially those related to a painful event, loss or life change carry the greatest concern. Some signs to look for include:
Need more resources? Standardized screening and assessment tools ensure staff use common language, discuss and understand a patient’s status and make plans for appropriate care. Zero Suicide is a concept and initiative founded on the belief that suicide deaths for individuals under care within health and behavioral health systems are preventable. It is supported by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The Zero Suicide website lists a number of tools available for different organizations and settings based, in part, on whether the organization will provide comprehensive care after a patient is found to be at risk.
Suicide risk is highest within the month immediately following discharge from an emergency department or psychiatric hospital, with the greatest number of suicides occurring within one week of discharge. If a patient is NOT considered to be in imminent risk for suicide, but is in need of further evaluation, effective strategies to assist individuals in connecting with outpatient services and providing support during this high-risk time are critical. According to SPRC, these include:
If a patient is in imminent risk for suicide, secure the environment and facilitate rapid psychological evaluation and treatment. The safest environment is a room or unit designated for behavioral health patients. If not available, or until available:
As a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor, you may be in the best position to detect risk factors and warning signs for suicide in others. If you think someone may be at risk, there are several important things you should do:
See how well you score on these true/false questions about suicide. Click each statement to learn the answer.
Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the CDC: National Suicide Statistics
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Answer: True – For every 10 to 25 suicide attempts, 1 actually results in death.×
Answer: True – Three times as many women attempt suicide than men, while four times as many men than women actually kill themselves. Poisoning is the most common means for women — typically an overdose of medication, the result of which is less often lethal. Firearms are the most common method for men.×
False – Most suicidal individuals give definite warning signs of their intentions, but many people are either unaware of the significance of the warnings or do not know how to respond to them. Most teens that attempt or die by suicide have communicated their distress or plans to at least one other person. These communications are not always direct, so it is important to know some of the key warning signs.×
False – Problems that may seem like a big deal to one person, particularly adults, may be causing a great deal of distress for the suicidal teen. It is important to remember that perceived crises can be just as concerning and predictive of suicidal behavior as actual crises.×
True – Suicidal ideations can affect individuals of all genders, races, ethnicities, upbringings and socio-economic statuses. Pay attention to what a person says and does, not what he or she looks like or how you believe the person should think, feel or act.×
False – Teenage suicides make headlines, but the elderly are more likely to take their own lives than any other age group.×
True – Those with depression are 20 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population.×
False –Richer countries such as Japan and France have some of the highest suicide rates. Suicide hotlines are seldom used.×
False – Increased publicity has increased the use of suicide hotlines in recent years.×
False – HIPAA permits contact to family, friends or outpatient treatment providers when the clinician, in good faith, believes the patient may be a danger to him or herself or others. First, request the patient’s permission. If the patient declines to consent after reasonable attempts have been made to request permission, there are circumstances in which contact may be made without the patient’s permission.×