For Immediate Release: September 9, 2015
National Suicide Prevention Week – September 7-13 – serves as a call to action to individuals and organizations to learn about suicide prevention. AtlantiCare is one of the many organizations dedicated to preventing suicide and increasing awareness among the community.
“Suicide is a national issue and a major public health concern,” says Inua Momodu, MD, MPH, FAPA, FAACAP, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center (ARMC) and medical director of AtlantiCare Behavioral Health (ABH). “We need to talk about suicide and make the community aware that this is a growing problem.”
According to the American Association of Suicidology, in the United States, someone commits suicide every 13 minutes, and it is estimated that more than five million people in the United States have been directly affected by a suicide.
Recognize Warning Signs
To combat suicide, it is important to first understand the warning signs.
Someone might be at risk for suicide if he or she:
Risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss or change.
Communication with A Primary Care Provider
When the right questions are asked and physicians know what to look for, primary care can be the ideal setting for suicide prevention interventions.
“Many people who commit suicide have seen their primary care provider in the months preceding their suicide but hide their distress due to embarrassment or fear,” explains Julie Drew, system executive director, Behavioral Health, AtlantiCare.
“Primary care providers, when offering open honest and direct communication with their patients, can be the first line of defense against suicide. Routinely asking patients how they have been feeling – both physically and emotionally – might help to identify whether they need further questioning,” says Momodu. “These questions save lives.”
Most patients with suicidal feelings are relieved when a physician recognizes their despair. An open attitude and careful questioning can help physicians assess the patient's risk of suicide. Primary care physicians then can decide whether patients should be treated on an outpatient basis, hospitalized, or referred to a psychiatrist.
“One of the biggest risks for suicide is depression, and research shows that the two weeks after discharge from a mental hospital for depression is the greatest risk period for a suicide attempt,” explains Momodu. “This is an important time for a patient to be connected to a primary care provider, who can monitor the patient’s thoughts and behaviors.”
Talking to someone about his or her suicidal thoughts and feelings can be difficult, but family members or friends who are worried about a loved one’s well-being should ask how he or she is feeling. Giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and might prevent a suicide attempt.
Start a Conversation about Suicide.
If suicidal signs are observed, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional for a screening. If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a local crisis center, dial 911 or take the person to an emergency room.
Continue Support Over the Long Haul
“Continued family support is vital to ensure a loved one remains on the recovery track,” says Momodu.
If the doctor prescribes medication to a family member or friend, follow up to ensure he or she is taking the medication as directed. Remove potential means of suicide such as pills, knives, razors, or firearms. If the person is likely to take an overdose, keep medications locked away or give out only as the person needs them.
Encourage positive lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and getting out in the sun or into nature for at least 30 minutes each day. Exercise is also extremely important as it releases endorphins, relieves stress, and promotes emotional well-being.
Even after the immediate suicidal crisis has passed, stay in touch with the person, periodically checking in or dropping by.
Throughout National Suicide Prevention Week, many AtlantiCare sites will provide the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline cards with the warning signs to patients who come in for care.
On Thursday, September 10, from 10:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., tables will be set up at the William L. Gormley AtlantiCare HealthPlex, Atlantic City and at the Hammonton Family Success Center, with information on suicide prevention and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. In addition, tables will be set up at both the AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s Mainland and City campuses.
To schedule an initial appoint with an Atlantic Behavioral Health therapist, call 609-646-9159.
For a crisis situation in Atlantic County, dial 911 or 609-344-1118.
For more information about AtlantiCare service, visit www.atlanticare.org, www.well4life.org, or call the AtlantiCare Access Center at 888-569-1000.
AtlantiCare is an integrated system of services designed to help people achieve optimal health. It includes AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, AtlantiCare Health Engagement, the AtlantiCare Foundation, and AtlantiCare Health Services. Its more than 5,221 employees and more than 700 physicians serve the community in nearly 70 locations. A 2009 Malcolm Baldrige Award winner, AtlantiCare was also included in Modern Healthcare’s Best Places to Work in Healthcare in 2010. ARMC became the 105th hospital in the nation to attain status as a Magnet™ designated hospital in March of 2004 and was redesignated a Magnet™ hospital in 2008 and 2013.