Healthcare providers in the Ozarks are prioritizing suicide prevention

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) — Missouri and Arkansas have some of the highest suicide rates in the country. The Centers for Disease Control lists both states in the top 15.

Healthcare providers in the Ozarks are prioritizing prevention more than ever. More than 40,000 Mercy employees completed a Zero Suicide Initiative training course this year. According to Mercy, this was not done because of any external demands or demands.

“Suicide is often what some consider a type of silent killer because in many cases people suffer in silence and don’t tell their doctor,” said Dr. David Barbe, Head of Primary Care at Mercy Springfield. “We’re seeing a significant uptick in thoughts just since the pandemic.”

dr Barbe says the number of patients who answer “yes” to having suicidal thoughts is more than he’s ever seen.

“When someone shows up at a doctor’s office with a headache, a stomach ache, or a minor injury… how do you know those symptoms are surface-level and not associated with depression? Or a suicide attempt,” said Dr. Kyle John, Vice President, Behavioral Health, Mercy.

Mercy says it now seeks suicidal idealizations in the ER, upon admission to the hospital, and most aggressively in primary care.

“It’s really raised awareness not only about the current epidemic of suicides, but also the importance of GPs investigating this,” Barbe said. “We look for changes in attitude, behavior, mood and we look for changes in their lifestyle.”

Patients found to be at higher risk of suicide are managed using a safety plan.

“If you come to the doctor with a sore throat and they diagnose strep throat, but you’re not on an antibiotic, well, that was the real reason they came,” said Dr. John. “When we identify patients at higher risk of suicide, we use a standardized safety plan as treatment.”

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