Hospital suicide prevention
An average of 85 suicides a year occur in hospitals across the country.
While that number is relatively low, especially considering the scope, it is important that hospitals and other healthcare facilities continue to make their environments safer for patients and employees who could be at the risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
This includes having hospital suicide prevention plans and procedures for general care units as well as dedicated psychiatric and emergency departments.
Two main parts of any suicide prevention plan for hospitals should be making patient rooms as ligature-resistant as possible and ensuring that a patient’s suicide risk is assessed and then considered as part of the medical plan to treat both the physical pain or concerns and the patient’s mental health. Doing the former ensures that a hospital is taking away possible avenues a person struggling with suicidal thoughts has available to carry out an attempt. This sweep should include items that have even a remote chance of being used, like points where a cord, rope, bedsheet, or other fabric or material can be looped or tied to create a sustainable point of attachment that may result in self-harm or loss of life.
Steps for suicide risk mitigation
- Training staff and testing them for competency on how they would address the situation of a patient with serious suicidal ideation.
- 1:1 monitoring of patients with serious suicidal ideation.
- Conducting risk assessments for objects that pose a risk for self-harm and identifying those objects that should be routinely removed from the immediate vicinity of patients with suicidal ideation who are cared for in the main area of the emergency department.
- Removing any items that a suicidal patient could use for self harm.
- Monitoring of visitors.
- Monitoring of bathroom use for a patient with serious suicidal ideation.
- Implementing protocols to have qualified staff accompany patients with serious suicidal ideation from one area of the hospital to another.