September is National Suicide Prevention Month, with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10. To those in the healthcare community and countless mental health and substance abuse allies, suicide prevention is a year-round mission. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans and among the top five causes of death for those ages 10 to 54.
Fortunately, numerous federal, state, and local public and private agencies are working to reduce suicide deaths and detect warning signs sooner. We have recognized the importance of screening, early and regularly, for suicide and mood changes outside of strictly behavioral health settings with a focus on prevention.
As agents of care, whether as administrators, clinicians, or caregivers, valuable resources exist to guide our prevention efforts.
- The Center for Integrated Health Solutions offers practical tools,
trainings, and information regarding suicide prevention, and a resource compilation on suicide prevention in primary care.
- The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) offers a substantial compendium of resources and trainings surrounding suicide prevention. SPRC’s Zero Suicide program offers toolkits designed to help assess an organization’s readiness and ability to impact suicide, and specific training and development strategies to provide safer prevention-informed care.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK (8255)) is available 24/7 to provide confidential support for individuals in crisis, as well as concerned family and loved ones. The Lifeline also offers information to professionals in their efforts to help others. Lifeline report data is also available to help identify state-based call volume trends as recently as the past year, providing up-to-date information to supplement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) information.
- Admission and discharge transitions pose a particularly heightened period of risk for patients with suicide ideation. A toolkit for comprehensive care transitions incorporating the Zero Suicide approach can be found here. An Emergency Department Discharge Planning Checklist and Discharge Decision Support Tool are two quick reference guides available here.
- Clinics and health centers should also consider incorporating suicide screening into Electronic Health Records (EHR) to standardize and routinize assessment. Here, Virna Little speaks about how this EHR modification has been implemented at the Institute for Family Health.
- Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based public education program that teaches lay-people and professionals how to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression, suicide risk, anxiety, trauma, psychosis, and substance use disorders. Through its interactive action plan, participants in the course learn how to provide comfort, de-escalate
crisis, refer to professional help, and suggest self-help strategies to individuals in need.
- Suicide Safe is a free suicide prevention app from SAMHSA for providers integrating suicide prevention into their practice. The app is based on SAMHSA’s Suicide Assessment Five-Step Evaluation (SAFE-T) card, available here.
- The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) and the PHQ-9, both of which are available in numerous language versions, are two additional well-validated assessment tools.
- Stories of Hope and Recovery is a free video guide featuring survivors of suicide attempts who share their stories of recovery and messages of hope. Perspectives from family members are also offered.
- Vicarious traumatization, or the effects of exposure to the traumatic experiences of other people, and direct exposure to client
suicide,can be a serious occupational hazard in healthcare. The U.S. Office of Justice Programs offers a Vicarious Trauma Toolkit designed to assess and manage the effects of trauma exposure. The American Association of Suicidology also offers information for survivors of suicide attempts, clinicians who have lost patients or family members to suicide, and individuals who have lost loved ones to suicide.
Read more on Integration.SAMHSA.gov.