Practice Tip of the Week: Suicide Prevention
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Posted by: Kanaka Sathasivan
This week marks World Suicide Prevention Week with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10. All week, awareness activities promote resources available to help those at risk. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides a phone number (1-800-273-8255) for people in crisis to call any hour of the day, any day of the year.
In 2014, suicide was the second leading cause of death in children and youth aged 10-24 and young adults aged 25-34. Suicide is also a growing problem in the elderly. Seniors are the fastest growing segment of the US population and the second highest rate of suicide deaths occurs in the 85+ age group making the issue of later-life suicide a growing public health concern. Some risk factors in this age group include depression, prior suicide attempts, feelings of loss of independence or purpose, and social isolation.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a mental health issue that is potentially diagnosable and treatable. Helping people get through an active suicidal crisis can greatly reduce their chances of dying by suicide. Further, most people can go on to live a healthy life after surviving a suicide attempt.
Nurses can help prevent suicide through education, awareness of risk factors and warning signs, and providing resources. Resources for all age groups including warning signs and risk factors are available on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website. Texas Suicide Prevention maintains extensive resources on their website including an online toolkit for healthcare providers. This evidence review on suicide assessment for nurses can help nurses in any area of practice save a life by increasing their knowledge of suicide prevention.
Zero Suicide Coalition has resources to help nurses train staff, identify risk factors, and treat suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has suicide risk assessment standards with core principles that should be addressed when screening someone for suicide risk.
A note on stigma: Talking about suicide matters, and the way we talk about it matters. All health care practitioners need to dispel the myth that talking about suicide will increase the likelihood of suicide. The stigma of suicide means that people with worsening symptoms may hide or fear speaking up. Avoid using the phrase “committed suicide.” Instead use “died by suicide,” to reduce the implication of a criminal act and further create a safe space to talk about suicide and loss.