SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – Missouri and Arkansas have some of the highest suicide rates in the nation. The Centers for Disease Control ranks both states in the Top 15.
Health care providers in the Ozarks are prioritizing prevention more than ever. More than 40,000 Mercy colleagues completed a Zero Suicide Initiative training course this year. According to Mercy, this was not done due to outside requests or demands.
“Suicide is often what some might see as a kind of silent killer because people will suffer in silence in many cases and not tell their health care provider,” said Dr. David Barbe, chief medical officer. primary care for Mercy Springfield. “We’ve seen a significant increase in thoughts, especially since the pandemic.”
Dr. Barbe says more patients answer “yes,” they have suicidal thoughts, than he has ever seen.
“If someone comes into a primary care practice with a headache or stomach pain or has had a minor injury…how do you know those symptoms are exactly what they appear to be? surface and not something associated with depression? Or a suicide attempt,” said Dr. Kyle John, vice president for behavioral health, Mercy.
Mercy says he now screens for suicidal idealization in the emergency room, hospital admission and more aggressively in primary care settings.
“It really raised awareness not only of the current suicide epidemic, but also of the importance for primary care physicians to screen for this,” Barbe said. “We watch for attitude changes, behavior changes, mood changes and we look for changes in their lifestyle.”
Patients identified as having a higher suicidal risk will be treated according to a safety plan.
“If you show up to the doctor with a sore throat and he diagnoses you with strep throat, but you don’t get the antibiotic, well, that was sort of the point of showing up,” said said Dr. John. “When we identify patients who are at higher risk for suicide, we use a standardized safety plan as treatment.”
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