Mental Health Awareness & Suicide Prevention

“Suicide doesn’t end the chances of life getting worse, it eliminates the possibility of it ever getting any better.”  unknown

National Suicide Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK (8255)

Susie’s parents knew it was that time of year again, school about to start and their daughter needed a check-up and physical.  Upon entering the doctor’s office, a new procedure had been implemented and Susie was handed a tablet to take a depression screening.  The results shocked her parents.  They had no idea Susie had moderate depression and had been thinking about suicide, sure she had her moody days where she didn’t come out of her room, but isn’t that all teen-agers? 

Suicidal thoughts, as well as mental health conditions can affect anyone. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Nearly 45,000 individuals die due to suicide each year and friends and family members are left to face the tragedy of loss. For this reason, many major medical associations are urging Physicians to implement screening for their patients.  When underlying depression is dealt with, patient outcomes improve and suicide ideation can be dealt with.

The US faces a significant shortage of psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health providers, which is particularly dire in rural regions.  The advent of telehealth services and the ability to deliver mental health assessments and sessions is an important step in the right direction. The need to manage this is being pushed more and more to Primary Care and Specialists.  Serious mental illness costs the US $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year and further demonstrates the importance of finding and treating mental health conditions… read more here

“The shortage of psychiatrists is an escalating crisis,” notes the physician search firm Merritt Hawkins in a 2017 report.  “[The gap is] of more severity than shortages faced in virtually any other specialty.”

·         Over 90% of those who die by suicide have a mental health condition

·         7% of students have “seriously considered suicide” in the past year

·         Every day, an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide

·         Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–14 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24 (including college students)

·         Suicide among the elderly population is a significant risk when compared to other age groups.  In fact, the elderly generally consults with their primary care Providers rather than mental health professionals for their mental health problems… read more here

Paper screening is not enough.  Although the PHQ-9 is a powerful tool, the issue remains that although the screening can expose underlying depression and potential suicide ideation, it requires a Physician to continue to dig to determine plan or intent … read more here

How can we improve these outcomes?  Considering that Physicians handle over 1.2 billion patient visits per year in offices, emergency departments and other settings, they remain the fulcrum and key to improving mental health and suicide in the United States.  The combined use of effective screening, assessments and technology is critical.  Computer-based, branching logic engines provide Physicians with the answers they need prior to entering the room with a patient. These systems can dig, where appropriate, to expose suicide ideation, plan, and intent and helps doctors determine the appropriate course of action.  Testing and screening all patients for mental health conditions is simple, effective and improves lives.

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