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Certain Non-Psychiatric Patients also at Risk for Suicide

Emergency room workers and hospital staff are now being urged to be on the lookout for suicide attempts by patients who are in their facility but do not have a psychiatric history. The Joint Commission has recently issued an alert emphasizing the fact that medical patients who are in severe pain and / or suffering due to a medical condition may become suicidal.

In fact, since 1995 nearly 25% of the 827 reported suicides that took place in a hospital setting did not occur in a psychiatric setting. Rather, they happened in other types of hospital settings like cancer units and ICUs. And those are just the ones that were reported. It may actually happen more frequently.

Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon in people who have a serious medical condition, such as cancer, that can cause chronic pain. Many patients in the early stages of dementia also entertain thoughts of suicide. When a medical condition is significantly debilitating or recovery is unlikely, it can lead to feelings of hopelessness, which is a key factor in the majority of suicides.

One of the goals of the Joint Commission’s alert is to get caregivers to be aware that patients with no psychiatric history also kill themselves, and to watch for warning signs. Agitation, irritable mood, complaints of chronic pain, refusing to take their medication, or an unwillingness to see visitors are some of the potential signs of suicide risk.

Although patients who present with psychiatric symptoms are generally routinely assessed for suicide risk in ERs and on psychiatric units, screening non-psychiatric patients for depression and suicide risk as well in ER and hospital settings will help increase awareness and reduce the likeliness of a suicide attempt.

Read more: http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/646691.html

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