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Practice Tip of the Week: National Suicide Prevention Month

Tuesday, September 10, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Roy Muyinza
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By Darleen Cameron, BSN, RN
TNA District 5 | Volunteer American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Central Texas Chapter

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and #BeThe1To is the National Suicide Prevention message for this month. Every day should be an opportunity to save a life if the situation presents itself while caring for our patients, family, friends but also our coworkers. To do our best at prevention means we must know what to look for, how to listen to and how to speak to a suicidal person.

With burnout for health care providers and suicidal risk being more recognized, it’s vital to help each other. The first national study of nurse suicide in the US in over 20 years was published this summer. Researchers found that compared to non-nurses, both men and women working in nursing had significantly higher rates of suicide clearly demonstrating that our profession can take its toll.

Health care is complex and rapidly changing, and nurses are expected to adapt to these changes while providing quality care. Some of the stressors specific to nursing and health care are shift work, staffing deficiencies, work-life imbalance, heavy workloads and compassion fatigue.

Suicide risk factors for nurses are the same as the general population. Some of these risk factors include mood disorders; mental illnesses such as depression or bipolar disorder as well as previous suicide attempts, suicidal ideation or loss of a loved one to suicide. The recent study of nurse suicide found that significantly more nurses than the general population had a history of more suicide attempts, current mental health treatment, and previous mental health treatment, implying possible under-treatment of these issues.

What are warning signs for suicide? In conversation, you might hear phrases that reflect the person is experiencing unbearable pain; being a burden to others; feeling trapped; having no reason to live or specifically about killing themselves. You may notice they have a loss of interest in things they previously enjoyed; they may appear irritable, angry, show rage or humiliation. Behaviors that could be warning signs:

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawal from activities
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Isolating themselves from friends and family
  • Looking for ways to kill themselves such as searching online for materials or means
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Visiting people to say goodbye
  • Acting recklessly and showing aggression

So what do we do for each other?

  • Assume you’re the only one that will reach out. 
  • Have a private and honest conversation. “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” “Have you made a plan to end your life?”
  • Keep those at risk safe by removing any means that would allow them to harm themselves.
  • Listen, show compassion and empathy.
  • Help them connect to a support system-involve social work and mental health services. ; call 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741
  • Know your local resources.
  • Be proactive to bring mental health first aid or an interactive screening program to your facility or hospital system.
  • Utilize Human Resources to know what is available in your work setting. Develop a support network within your organization that allows an open and respectful dialogue Develop a recovery plan open to all in need locally in the event of a loss by suicide and know where to refer for ongoing support and don’t wait until there is a death to make a plan.
  • Speak candidly about suicide as the health issue it is to alleviate the stigma.

Last but not least-self-care. Ensuring we take care of ourselves allows us to be the best we can at home, work and socially. Mental health is everyone’s business and we all need someone at some time.

If you are interested in events to support suicide prevention, check out the Out of the Darkness Walks in Texas.

Texas Nurses Association

Texas Affiliate of ANA | 4807 Spicewood Springs Rd., Bldg 3, Suite 100, Austin TX 78759

800.862.2022 | 512.452.0645 |