Mike Richman with the VA Communications Centers concludes some interesting findings in his article about pre-suicide contact with mental healthcare among veterans and soldiers.
Veterans account for about 20 percent of the more than 40,000 people who commit suicide. This particular study looked at 569 Army soldiers who died from suicide in a recent 5-year period. The study confirms that about 50 percent of the soldiers accessed health care in the month before their death and about 25 percent in the week prior. Most visits were in a mental health unit.
This study suggests that opportunities exist to intervene. So what can we do? First there are warning signs we can monitor. These include the following:
1.) Significant agitation
2.) A dramatic increase or decrease in alcohol and substance abuse
3.) Social withdrawal
4.) Eye blinking
Another report reviewed the clinical reports of death by suicide within 7 days of discharge from all VA mental health units from 2002 to 2015. Of the 141 reports of suicide during that period, 43 percent (61) of which followed an unplanned discharge. That means the discharge occurred against medical advice or the patient unexpectedly requested to move up the discharge after it was scheduled for a later time. The study shows that inpatient teams should be aware of the "potentially heightened risk" for suicide in patients taking an unplanned discharge.
Riblet, director of the study, states: "Our findings suggest that even when—and especially when—patients leave inpatient psychiatric care precipitously or against our advice, we still need to do everything we can to arrange a solid follow-up plan. This may require some continued work around follow-up planning and communication with patients in the hours and days following an unplanned discharge."
Because the risk for suicide may be the greatest in the first few days after discharge, following up after discharge is essential. For a complete list of clinical practice guidelines, click here.
To read the full report click here.
The Door Switch wants to continue the fight for more awareness and provide additional resources to dispel the myths about mental health issues and solutions for safety issues. We also continue to strive to provide a product that keeps the hospital environment safe. We continue to be committed to better practices and procedures in mental health community. For information concerning our safety product, please click here.