“We need to do the same when it comes to suicide. We need to ask at every visit, every person.”
Cambridge Health Alliance of Massachusetts is joining a new nationwide network of hospitals collaborating on suicide prevention.
Research shows nearly half the people who die by suicide interact with the health care system in the month before their death, providing a critical opportunity to save lives.
Julie Goldstein Grumet, vice president for suicide prevention strategy at the Education Development Center and director of the Zero Suicide Institute, said health care providers will use evidence-based methods to detect suicide risk and collect real-time data, as they would with other health concerns.
“We get our blood pressure and our weight just to kind of check there’s not an underlying issue,” Goldstein Grumet pointed out. “We need to do the same when it comes to suicide. We need to ask at every visit, every person.”
Grumet pointed out when interventions are used with fidelity, hospitals can reduce suicide rates of people in their care by up to 75%. She stressed it is always important to ask people directly if they are considering suicide, and advise them to contact the nationwide Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
Over the next 14 months, participating hospitals will test and refine innovations to improve the care provided to patients at risk of suicide.
Fiona McCaughan, assistant chief nursing officer for Cambridge Health Alliance, said she hopes the new training will help build confidence and skills in her nursing staff, who ultimately spend the most time with patients.
“It’s that nursing staff that is often first online and can see minor changes in somebody,” McCaughan explained.
McCaughan noted many community-based supports for those at risk of suicide were lost during the pandemic, and she hopes the training will help families as those programs slowly return. The latest data reveal suicide claimed roughly 48,000 lives in 2021.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Kathryn Carley began her career in community radio, and is happy to be back, covering the New England region for Public News Service. Getting her start at KFAI in Minneapolis, Carley graduated from the University of Minnesota and then worked as a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, focusing on energy and agriculture. Moving to Washington, D.C., she filed stories for The Pacifica Network News and The Pacifica Report. Later Carley worked as News Host for New York Public Radio, WNYC as well as Co-Anchor for Newsweek’s long running radio program, Newsweek on Air. Carley also served as News Anchor for New York Times Radio. She now lives near Boston, MA.