Emergency Physicians: Spotting the Warning Signs of Suicide Can Save a Life

WASHINGTON, D.C.—September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and the pandemic continues to impact everyone’s mental health in different ways. Anyone can learn the warning signs of suicide risk and do their part to support those who may need help, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).    

“Most people think of the physical dangers of COVID, but this pandemic is contributing significantly to mental health challenges, too. Simple steps, like checking in with someone you care about, can mean the world, and spotting the warning signs of a mental health emergency can save a life,” said Mark Rosenberg, DO, MBA, FACEP, president of ACEP.

Everyone experiences stress at some point, but it is time to contact a professional when risk factors lead to changes in behavior or impede daily activities. If there is an immediate health emergency or safety risk, call 911 or visit the closest emergency department. The warning signs of a mental health emergency can include:

  • Hopelessness
  • 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

Prolonged isolation, anxiety or grief can be especially challenging for teens or young adults and emergency physicians are seeing an uptick in mental health emergencies during the pandemic.

Depression and anxiety are on the rise and more children and young adults are going to the emergency department for mental health-related emergencies and suicide attempts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While overall suicide rates dropped in the last year, more of these tragedies are occurring in minority communities that are disproportionately impacted by COVID. 

“Many communities have great mental health resources for anyone who is struggling with depression or  suicidal thoughts, and I encourage them to reach out before it becomes an emergency,” said Dr. Rosenberg. “But no matter what the crisis, emergency physicians are trained and ready to help.”

Resources for anyone struggling with their mental health include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The confidential service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Read more about the ways emergency physicians identify and reduce suicide risks on www.emergencyphysicians.org.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is the national medical society representing emergency medicine. Through continuing education, research, public education and advocacy, ACEP advances emergency care on behalf of its 40,000 emergency physician members, and the more than 150 million Americans they treat on an annual basis. For more information, visit www.acep.org and www.emergencyphysicians.org

Contact: Steve Arnoff | sarnoff@acep.org | Twitter @EmergencyDocs

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