High-profile suicides bring topic to the front page

June 21, 2018

The recent suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have brought the topic of suicide back to the forefront of American culture. These two celebrities were beloved by many, and their deaths came as a shock to those who were unaware of their personal struggles. Sadly, they are not alone in facing mental health challenges that led them to take their own lives.

Locally, the rates of suicide are increasing in every county in our state, and we don’t know why. This silent, ongoing epidemic is an overwhelming public health crisis, and one in which health care providers play a central role. However, it can be a difficult subject to explore with those experiencing a crisis. (Also see this week’s edition of recent member news to read ParentMap’s recent interview with a provider from Overlake Medical Center discussing suicide.)

Some patients seek care in emergency departments and clinics for vague, nonspecific symptoms that could signal depression, and it is important that caregivers in these settings have the skills needed to talk about suicide prevention. Forefront Suicide Prevention, administered by the University of Washington, offers a five-step model that can be rolled out to frontline hospital staff, hospital volunteers and members of the community. The Joint Commission also released a special report in November 2017 with recommendations on how to reduce suicide hazards within health care facilities.

WSHA’s July 11 in-person Safe Table at the SeaTac Conference Center will also address this topic, and guest speaker Dr. Leslie Zun, chair of the department of Emergency Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago, will discuss psychiatric care and disorders in the ER. We will also explore how the state is moving toward integrating mental health and substance use disorders through care transitions, and the important role primary care plays in behavioral health. WSHA members can register for the July 11 Safe Table here.

And remember, help is always available for your patients through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Be well,

Jennifer Graves
WSHA Senior Vice President, Patient Safety & Quality


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