WASHINGTON, D.C.—In recognition of National Suicide Prevention Week, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) urges everyone to do their part to support those who may be struggling with depression or other mental health challenges by recognizing the warning signs of suicide, knowing how to help, and becoming more familiar with resources available in each community.
“Spotting suicidal thoughts or behaviors could help avoid a tragedy,” said William Jaquis, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP. “Each of us will process this pandemic in our own way, but people may be more likely to experience difficult feelings during a crisis. You can be sure that if and when you need us, an emergency physician will be there for you.”
Call 911 or visit the closest emergency department in the event of a medical emergency or if there is an immediate health or safety threat. Contact a mental health professional if you, or someone you know, exhibits one or more of these warning signs:
- Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Withdrawal from friends, family, or society
- Anxiety, agitation, trouble sleeping or sleeping all the time
- Dramatic mood changes
Consider contacting a health professional if stress impedes your daily activities for several days in a row. Talk to the person to understand what they are thinking and feeling. Research shows that discussing suicide may reduce suicidal thoughts. Help a person at-risk by connecting them with trusted friends or family, or a mental health professional.
If emergency care is required for a suicide attempt, a physician-led care team will keep the patient safe until they are ready to go home. Prior to discharge, resources for longer-term care will be outlined as appropriate and a list of nearby experts and places to go for help will be provided as available. The care team will work with the patient to create a written safety plan that includes their unique warning signs, coping strategies, and resources for help.
It is critical that patients try to maintain a safe environment for themselves at home. More than half (52 percent) of suicides involve a gun, according to research available through AFFIRM, an emergency-physician-led organization dedicated to firearm injury prevention research. Misuse of medication also poses significant risks. Ask a doctor about how to safely dispose of unused, expired or unwanted medicines. Consider taking steps to identify the best strategies for safe storage of medication, firearms or other potential home hazards. One helpful tool that encourages safe storage based on personal choices is Lock2Live, an education website developed by emergency physicians.
“Suicide is complicated, and emergency physicians are vital partners in the collaborative effort necessary to prevent these incidents from occurring. If you ever feel like you may hurt yourself or others or you have thoughts about taking your own life, please seek help right away,” said Dr. Jaquis.
If you or somebody you know experiences suicidal thoughts or behaviors, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is available to anyone and all calls are confidential. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers additional resources for help here.