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Nursing home suicide prevention

Nursing homes and other long-term care providers play a big role when it comes to nursing home suicide prevention.

Staff supervision alone is not enough. A 2015 study from the University of Michigan found that the suicide rate in older adults in nursing homes was nearly the same as the rate in the general population. Those living in nursing and retirement homes often experience depression, loneliness or suffer from physical ailments. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has published a comprehensive guide to help senior communities deal with this issue and continue their prevention efforts.

In that report, advocates wrote that facilities can take many steps to reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviors among their residents. Those steps included talking about mental health and offering substance abuse treatment programs, while promoting general health and wellness, as well as cultivating a culture that promotes self-preservation. Nursing homes should also work to establish a pleasant homelike atmosphere and be accessible to all. Facilities should also minimize access to means that could be used to carry out a suicide attempt. Jumping, hanging, drowning, and drug overdose are common avenues for suicide attempts in senior communities if firearm access is already limited.

From a community aspect, nursing homes should work to foster relationships with family, friends, and the larger community. Promote group activities and work to build strong connections between staff members and residents. Any nursing home suicide prevention plan needs to cover the whole population, how to better identify and assist at-risk residents, and a crisis-intervention plan that includes what to do in the aftermath of a suicide at the nursing home.

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