The Two Secrets to Stopping Suicide in Kingston, New York

The statistics about suicide are staggering! 

In America in 2006, an estimated 832,500 suicide attempts occurred. A suicide attempt is an act where the intended outcome was death.

In 2007, more than 34,000 suicide deaths occurred in the United States
and nearly 1 million worldwide.  Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death for all ages and the second leading cause of death among 25 to 34 year olds.  In the U.S., there are 89 suicides per day and 1 suicide every 16 minutes.  There are 3.8 male deaths by suicide for each female death by suicide.   Yet ironically, 3 females attempt suicide for every male that attempts suicide.

Number One Way to Prevent Suicide: Screening for Suicide Risk

In some cases, suicide is unpredictable and random, but in many cases it can be predicted based upon proper screening of high risk individuals.  Screening can be effective for detecting many patients who conceal their wish to kill themselves.  But should everyone be screened or only those at high risk for suicide?  Should screening for suicide risk be as common as checking blood pressure and heart rate?  Not so fast.

Screening for the risk of suicide involves two major factors: whether the patient has a psychiatric illness and a history of prior suicide attempts.  About 90% of persons making a serious attempt have a symptomatic mental illness at the time of the attempt and nearly 57% have more than one mental illness.  Depending on the psychiatric disorder, suicide attempt rates range from 15% to 50% and mood disorders have by far the strongest association with suicide.  Persons with mental illnesses, such as major depression, mood disorders and substance abuse, have the highest rates of suicide.

The second major factor in assessing the risk of suicide is a history of prior suicide attempts.  Suicide deaths are most associated with a history of one or more suicide attempts and a current, persistent suicidal ideation.  Suicidal ideation are thoughts of harming or killing oneself.  Suicide attempts are easily the strongest, most easily recognized predictor of suicide death

Screening for suicide risk will help detect many patients' concealed suicide risk.  A thorough history of the patient's suicidal warning signs and risk factors is critical to preventing suicide.  When a person has a history of one or more mental illnesses and prior suicide attempts, the risk of suicide is high.  Identifying persons at risk of suicide is the key to suicide prevention.

Number Two Way to Preventing Suicide: Prompt Mental Health Treatment

Once the risk of suicide is identified, it must be addressed through treatment interventions and suicide precautions.

For persons at high risk for suicide, the risk of suicide attempts and death is highest immediately after discharge from the emergency department or an inpatient psychiatric unit.  Persons with severe mental illnesses, limited financial resources and a poor family environment are hard to manage in out-patient treatment and are often lost to follow up treatment.

Delayed follow up can have tragic consequences, while immediate follow up after a discharge from the emergency department or an in-patient psychiatric unit, is crucial for suicide prevention.  As many as 70% of suicide attempters of all ages wll never make it to their first out-patient appointment.

The goal should be prompt mental health follow up.  For example, all persons being referred for mental health services receive an initial evaluation within 24 hours.  This means the first appointment is the next day, if possible.  Prompt mental health follow up for persons at high risk for suicide is a crucial factor in suicide prevention. If follow up is not carried out, there is a very high risk (as high as 50%) that another suicide attempt will occur within 12 months.

Let me know if you have any questions

If you have any questions about suicide prevention, I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 866-889-6882 or you can e-mail your questions to me at [email protected] .  I invite you to join my e-mail mailing list for regular tips and updates about medical consumers' rights.