Suicide prevention in the US needed now more than ever

As US suicide rates continue to rise, what can emergency nurses do to help those at risk?

As US suicide rates continue to rise, what can emergency nurses do to help those at risk?

The most recent news of celebrity suicides, including fashion designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain, has once again highlighted an epidemic that has not waned.

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In the US, suicide rates have climbed to 30%; it is the tenth leading cause of death in adults and second leading cause of death in adolescents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These are staggering figures compared to the UK, where the Office for National Statistics shows suicide rates have fallen.

What is driving this public healthcare crisis in the US?

Conduct a cursory literature search on the topic of suicide and associated terms such as mental illness, opioid use, chronic stress, social media, financial burden and genetics will be prominent.

Coupled with a lack of financial support for mental healthcare, the multitude of factors contributing to suicide or suicide risk make prevention and intervention difficult tasks. 

In the emergency department, appropriately screening and recognising mental illness begins at triage.

But this should continue throughout the entire ED visit as only 3% of patients will disclose suicidal ideation when that number is really threefold.

Many validated screening tools exist and are readily available for use. It is also important to establish multidisciplinary teams specialising in mental health that can effectively intervene and support transition of care out of the emergency care setting.

Suicide is not caused by a single factor and comprehensive suicide prevention efforts are needed now, more than ever.

As healthcare providers, we can be part of those efforts by identifying those at risk and intervening before another person becomes another statistic. 

About the author

Rachel Lyons is associate professor at Montclair State University School of Nursing in Montclair, NJ.

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