Suicide – An Emergency Priority of Public Health Care

Suicide An Emergency

A significant number of emergency department visits annually arise as a result of intentional self-harm. Although no accurate description explains what leads to suicide or what comes after, it is a multifaceted phenomenon of public health urgency during a global health crisis. In the United States alone, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and worldwide claims up to 800,000 lives each year. The international community must unite to come up with solutions to prevent the loss of life, as every single life lost is one too many.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, such an emergency naturally affects both individuals’ health and well-being and the communities in which they live. Unprecedented times unleash various emotional reactions from isolation, grief and trauma to other unhealthy behaviours, noncompliance with public health guidelines and the exacerbation of mental health conditions. While those who’ve been emotionally, sexually or physically abused in the past are more vulnerable to the psychosocial effects of a crisis, supportive interventions such as the Zero Suicide program and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy designed to promote wellness and enhance coping should be implemented [1]. 

In honour of World Suicide Prevention Week, and World Suicide Prevention Day held on the 10th of September every year, it is important to raise attention to the global importance of suicide prevention. Suicide impacts all people and particularly the world’s most marginalized and discriminated groups. It is a huge problem in developed countries and just as serious in low-and middle income countries where resources and access to healthcare professionals are scarce. In many regions of the world, the taboo and stigma surrounding suicide persist, causing people in need of help to be left alone. 

Suicide prevention with awareness campaigns ought to be prioritized on the global health and public policy agendas as a major public health issue. Routine screening for suicidal ideation by health care professionals providing care should identify and assess suicide risk among populations. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), risk factors of suicide include mental illness, substance use diagnoses, trauma or conflict, loss, family history of suicide, and previous suicide attempts [2].

Effectively implementing suicide prevention strategies at the populational, sub-populational and individual level requires ensuring patients’ lethal means are restricted, reduced, and that all accesss to weapons of self-harm are removed from the nearby environments. Healthcare providers should keep up to date with new developments, research, and technologies screening for suicidal ideation, allowing them to effectively serve patients beyond their clinics’ walls. Key to prevention are strong physician patient relationships that help ensure care transitions allow for physicians to act as supportive contacts reaching out with calls, texts, letters and visits to their patients particularly when services are interrupted. With access to technology the role of psychiatrists, and psychologists may continue uninterrupted as telemedicine serves as an effective platform providing patients with access to care, even during lockdowns. Besides these objectives, greater awareness and education into the community means encouraging the responsible portrayal of suicide in mainstream media. A sensitive issue of this magnitude ought to be communicated responsibly placing special attention to not trigger susceptible individuals. With school based interventions, professionals may act sooner before worsened prognosis’ effectively ensuring that access to peer support services is available. 

Suicide prevention is a responsibility of healthcare systems, medical professionals and communities. All countries must stand in solidarity and unify in collaboration to battle this common threat as preventing the tragic loss of life to suicide is of utmost importance. 

References & Further Reading

  1. In Health and Behavioral Healthcare. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2020, from http://zerosuicide.edc.org/toolkit/treat/interventions-suicide-risk 
  2. Psychiatry Online: DSM Library. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/book/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596 
Cite this article as: Leah Sarah Peer, Canada, "Suicide – An Emergency Priority of Public Health Care," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, October 19, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/10/19/suicide-an-emergency-priority-of-public-health-care/, date accessed: October 26, 2020

iEM Monthly – August 2020

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Brenda Varriano

Brenda Varriano

Brenda has just completed her first year of medical school at Central Michigan University. She has an interest in Emergency Medicine, and participated in the 2020 STAR-EM (Summer Training and Research in Emergency Medicine) at Toronto Western Hospital. Aside from school she loves working out, drawing and listening to music. At school she volunteers with Special Olympics, designed a study that aims to develop a crisis preparedness toolkit for rural Older Adults Impacted by COVID-19 through CMU-CARES, and is working with a group of students to host Pre-Medical School Workshops. Brenda loves to see others succeed while keeping a healthy lifestyle and avoiding burnout.

Sheza Qayyum

Sheza Qayyum

My name is Sheza Qayyum, and I am a third-year medical student at the University of Toronto in Canada. My interests include medical education, FOAMed, and inner-city health. I am one of the podcast co-directors at the International Student Association of Emergency Medicine (ISAEM), which I enjoy greatly. I also love baking (and really all things food-related), chasing waterfalls with pretty hikes, and laughs with my friends and family.

Joseph Ciano

Joseph Ciano

Joey Ciano, DO is an Emergency Medicine Physician from New York, USA. He completed his Emergency Medicine Residency in Brooklyn, NY and is the current International Emergency Medicine Fellow in the Northwell-LIJ Health System. One of his main professional interests is building the educational infrastructure of EM in countries where EM is not yet recognized as a field and in countries that are in the early stages of this process. He has partnered with international NGOs in EM educational projects and works as a visiting EM faculty member in West Bengal, India. He is excited to collaborate with the other authors of the iEM Education Project to contribute to world of FOAM-ed.

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I'm a fourth-year medical student at the University of Michigan applying to Emergency Medicine. I am passionate about medical education, especially end-of-life care in the ED, and resilience/wellness. Outside of medical school, I am an avid triathlete, nature-lover, and an advocate on sustainability and climate change.

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Amita Sudhir, MD is the Emergency Medicine Residency Program Director at the University of Virginia, USA. She was also the third year emergency medicine clerkship director for 8 years. She has authored several textbook chapters, an ACEP clinical policy (on NTSEMI ACS), lectured both nationally and internationally and created multiple curricula and educational modules. She is also on the Scientific Advisory Council (First Aid subcommittee) for the American Red Cross.

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Trained in Emergency Medicine and Internal Medicine, Rob Rogers currently practices Emergency Medicine at the University of Kentucky’s Chandler Hospital in the Department of Emergency Medicine. An innovative medical educator on the cutting edge of creativity, he shares his knowledge on the monthly medical education Medutopia Podcast. Rob co-founded The Teaching Institute and in 2014 created The Teaching Course at The University of Maryland. As a passionate medical education enthusiast, podcast evangelist, learning choreographer, and entrepreneur, Rob works tirelessly to change the world of medical education by reinventing it. In 2017, Rob created Medutopia, an international think tank of medical educators who teach educators all over the world how to make a difference in med ed. 

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