Critical Concepts | Legal / Ethical | Specialties Improving Suicide Screenings Nurses should be concerned about suicide because it is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in...
September is Suicide Prevention Month!
- Suicide is a somber topic. It has been stigmatized for years. Despite misperceptions, suicide is neither a personal failure nor the evidence of mental illness, but rather a common human response to many environmental factors and emotional turmoil.
- September is Suicide Prevention Month and we, as healthcare providers, need to gain awareness on mental health and suicide to be strong for others when they cannot be for themselves.
- Read on to learn of the responsibilities we have as providers to take action when are patients are in need.
RN-MSN – Chief Nursing Officer
Suicide Prevention Month
Suicide is a topic that many do not fully understand, but for those who have endured the pain of a loved one, friend, or co-worker, the effects of suicide are beyond devastating.
Many times, there are multiple questions left unanswered and the individuals left behind consistently ponder on these unanswered questions.
September has been designated as Suicide Prevention Month and involves a time to raise awareness on this stigmatized topic.
It is imperative that the public’s perception of suicide is shifted to attempt to better understand the vital information that individuals left behind endure and to spread hope.
Oftentimes, nurses may feel like this is not their expertise or specialty area, but any time a patient suggests any suicidal ideations or thoughts, the nurse must act on these events as urgent in order to obtain the help needed for the patient before a devastating decision is made. In a joint effort to bring awareness during Suicide Prevention Month, it is important for those working in healthcare to be aware of the following:
- What are some fast facts pertaining to suicide?
- What are the warning signs and risk factors of suicide?
- How can nurses and those in the healthcare industry assist in navigating through a mental health crisis?
Fast Facts for Suicide Prevention Month
*All facts are derived from National Alliance on Mental Heatlh
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 and the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States
- 78% of those that commit suicide are male
- Overall rate of suicide in the Unites States has increased by 35% since 1999
- More women than men attempt suicide, but men are four times as likely to die by suicide
- 46% of those who die by suicide had a mental health diagnosis or condition
- Nearly half of those that die by suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition and 90% of those experience actual symptoms
Warning Signs and Risk Factors of Suicide
Suicide can be difficult in so many ways, but especially when no symptoms are noted or even possibly detected.
However, there are certain times that the individual does present subtle warning signs and risk factors, and these must always be taken seriously without any hesitation for quick interventions to take place.
The following are some warning signs that may be seen in some individuals contemplating suicide:
- Aggressive and erratic behavior
- Increased drug and/or alcohol use
- Dramatic mood swings that are atypical for the individual
- Withdrawal from friends, family, co-workers, and community
- Reckless or impulsive behaviors that are atypical for the individual
- Giving away personal possessions
- Tying up loose ends, such as paying off debt or organizing personal affairs
- Collecting and/or saving medication pills
- Buying a weapon
- Saying goodbye to friends, family, and co-workers in an odd way
If a nurse or healthcare professional notices any of these warning signs or risk factors, immediate help must be sought in an effort to help the individual as quickly as possible.
Navigating a Mental Health Crisis
When mental illness is present, the potential for crisis should not be too far from one’s mind for the healthcare workers, family members, and co-workers. Once a crisis episode such as suicide occurs, the entire process can feel incredibly overwhelming with a flood of thoughts, emotions, reactions, and actions that must take place.
The most important area that nurses and healthcare members can assist those dealing with a mental health crisis is by offering information to the individual experiencing the mental illness along with family members.
Communication must be present with both the individual navigating through the mental health crisis along with the family member or loved ones.
As with any other health crisis, it is of vital importance to address a mental health emergency efficiently and quickly. As difficult as it can be with mental health conditions, crises can be almost impossible at times to predict unless there are warning signs.
And, it is important to note that crises can also occur even when treatment plans have been followed accurately with the involvement of mental health professionals.
Sadly, the issue of unpredictability seems to be the predominant nature of mental illness.
Unlike other health emergencies, people that experience mental health crisis typically, do not receive instruction or guidance on what to expect after the crisis. This idea should be emphasized among nurses and healthcare professionals and reflected upon during Suicide Prevention Month.
A guideline of possible events, what to expect, signs to look for, and quick interventions along with a resource guide with contact numbers should be given to each individual and family member/loved one when the slightest potential for suicide exists.
A helpful guide should include the following:
- Understanding mental health crises
- Preparing for a crisis
- What to do during a crisis
- What to do following a crisis
- A sample crisis plan to review and follow
It is of utmost importance that a guide such as the above is available and shared with those experiencing mental illness along with family members, community members, emergency departments, primary care physicians, law enforcement officials, and areas where involuntary commitments are initiated.
The Bottom Line on Suicide Prevention Month
Despite misperceptions, suicide is neither a personal failure nor the evidence of mental illness, but rather a common human response to many environmental factors and emotional turmoil. Improving life circumstances, intervening quickly when any symptoms are noted, enhancing social connection, and assisting with emotional factors have proven to be the most effective ways for nurses, families, and the community to reduce the frequency and intensity of suicidal feelings and thoughts.
It truly takes a collective understanding and awareness of suicide among varying groups of people to assist in preventing its prevalence. Taking continuing education courses on suicide prevention can further increase knowledge and understanding to share with others during suicide prevention month.
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