SIMPLE STEPS Model for Suicide Risk Assessment

Introduction

The SIMPLE STEPS Model (McGlothlin, 2008) for suicide risk assessment provides a simple mnemonic similar to others like SADPERSONS (Patterson, et. al., 1983) or IS PATH WARM (from the American Association of Suicidology). Each of these is correlated with increasing suicide lethality and so this can be a useful short-hand to remember these items.

Suicide risk assessment on the crisis line is mostly concerned with imminent risk, and many suicide screeners designed for lay people may miss important variables in a goal to be simplistic; the SIMPLE STEPS model appears to avoid both of these traps, by providing an assessment tool simple enough to be used in the crisis line environment but comprehensive enough to be used by counsellors or therapists for ongoing monitoring of suicide risk.

Items in the SIMPLE STEPS Model

  • Suicidal – Is the individual expressing suicidal ideation?
  • Ideation – What is their suicidal intent?
  • Method – How detailed and accessible is their suicidal method?
  • Perturbation – How strong is their emotional pain
  • Loss – Have they experienced actual or perceived losses? (Relationships, material objects)
  • Earlier Attempts – What previous attempts has the individual experienced, what happened after those attempts?
  • Substance Use – Is the individual abusing drugs, alcohol, or other substances?
  • (Lack of) Troubleshooting Skills – Are they able to see alternatives or options other than suicide?
  • Emotions / Diagnosis – “Assessment of emotional attributes (hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, loneliness, agitation, depression, and impulsivity) and diagnoses commonly associated with completed suicide (e.g., substance abuse, mood disorders, personality disorders, etc.)” (McGlothlin, et. al., 2016)
  • (Lack of) Protective Factors – What is keeping this person safe from suicide? Who are their supports (internal such as personal values and external like people), resources and agencies
  • Stressors and Life Events – What has happened in their life to lead them to suicide?

Sharp readers will identify that these elements map very neatly onto the DCIB Model of Suicide Risk Assessment, but perhaps provide a better mnemonic in order to make sure that clinicians who do not have the DCIB in front of them are able to perform that assessment.

Validation of the SIMPLE STEPS Model

McGlothlin, et. al. (2016) used 13,000 calls over six years to a crisis line and correlated the SIMPLE STEPS items with the lethality risk present in that call. One limitation of this study is that it used self-reported (by the helpline worker taking the call) lethality rather than using another evidence-based risk assessment in order to compare with. I am satisfied that McGlothlin addressed this in his limitations section, where he noted the difficulty with using data collected in this manner.

References

McGlothlin, J. (2008). Developing clinical skills in suicide assessment, prevention and treatment.
Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association

McGlothlin, J., Page, B., & Jager, K. (2016). Validation of the SIMPLE STEPS Model of Suicide Assessment. Journal Of Mental Health Counseling, 38(4), 298-307. doi:10.17744/mehc.38.4.02

Patterson, W.M., Dohn, H.H., Patterson, J. & Patterson, G.A. (1983). “Evaluation of suicidal patients: the SAD PERSONS scale.” Psychosomatics 24(4): 343–5, 348–9. doi:10.1016/S0033-3182(83)73213-5. PMID 6867245

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2017), "SIMPLE STEPS Model for Suicide Risk Assessment," retrieved on June 26, 2019 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/simple-steps-model-suicide-risk-assessment/.

 

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Suicide and Religion

Introduction

Studies on the connection between religion and suicide have led to mixed results. Some studies indicated higher levels of suicidality, no relation or reduced risk. Many of the studies that indicated a relationship (either positive or negative), had mediators attached – such as that individuals who were more religious were less likely to attempt suicide as long as they lacked other social supports.

Religiosity and Suicide

Meta-reviews, large scale analyses of suicide risk have helped shed some evidence on the connection between religion and suicide.

Lawrence, Oquendo & Stanley (2016) noted that suicide and religion are both complex dimensions (e.g. suicide ideation versus attempts versus death, religious affiliation versus attendance.) Being part of a majority religious community was found to be a greater protective factor against suicide than a minority community, but that attending religious services was not as important as having social supports (whether religious or not.)

Norko et. al. (2017) noted that all major faith communities (including Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity) have strong objections to suicide.

In Lawrence et. al. (2016) a sample of clinically depressed patients in a hospital setting were found to have a higher rate of suicidality if they identified a religious affiliation, the more they attended religious services, and the more they indicated religion was important.

Finally, Wu, Wang & Jia (2015), analyzing over 5000 participants across several large studies identified the three elements that are responsible for the protective factor of suicide: being of a western culture, being older, and living in a area with religious homogeneity.

Spirituality and Suicide

Spirituality can be examined through a lens different from organized religion. While religion may entail specific doctrine, spirituality instead examines one’s relationship with “self, others and ‘God’” (Mandhoui, et. al., 2016), in whatever form that takes.

Mandhoui et. al. (2016) surveyed individuals who were in hospital for suicide attempts. Those individuals lower in spirituality were more likely to attempt suicide at 18 months, with “value of life” tending to reduce the chance that someone re-attempts.

Amato, et. al. (2016) noted that spirituality can be integrated into suicide prevention programs such as case management, therapy and suicide assessment to determine the impact for that individual. They summarize the impact of spirituality by noting that “some individuals at high risk of suicide may find fellowship in an affirming community of faith; others may be helped by rituals that confer atonement or a state of exaltation; still others may learn, through mindfulness meditation, to suspend their inclination to judge themselves harshly.”

Specific Religions / Denominations and Suicide

Buddhism and Suicide

Buddhism has received some exploration in the scientific literature, especially in light of Buddhist monks who have self-immolated for political reasons, the most famous of whom was Thích Quảng Đức in 1963, but research on the exact suicide rate, especially when considered with other religions is lacking.

Lizardi & Gearing (2010) noted several elements that may decrease suicide in Buddhist individuals, including that the largest communities of Buddhists (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) have lower suicide rates than whites (who tend to belong to different religious communities) and a strong aversion to killing. In contrast, a belief in reincarnation and life-after-death may contribute to an increase in the suicide rate among specific individuals who adhere strongly to Buddhist traditions.

Catholicism / Protestantism and Suicide

Emile Durkheim in his 1897 work Suicide examined the suicide rates among Catholics and Protestants. He found that Catholics had much lower rates of suicide than Protestants and theorized that it was the result of social support provided in the Catholic community. Additional support was confirmed by Torgler & Schaltegger (2014) and Siegrist (1996) in a modern sample, who also found that church attendance reduced suicide.

Hinduism / Islam and Suicide

Ineichen (1998) examined a number of studies on Hinduism and Islam and consistently found that Muslims had much lower suicide rates than Hindus, focused on a variety of South Asian diaspora (such as individuals in the United Kingdom from other countries.)

Following up on this research, Thimmaiah et. al. (2016) explored a population of Muslims and Hindus in India and found that , while Muslims indicated more negative attitudes towards suicide which may help explain why they are less likely to attempt suicide.

Judaism and Suicide

Examining Jewish Israelis, Eliezer & Daniel (2012) found a rate of suicide lower in Jewish individuals than those who are Catholic or Protestant. Significantly, those with other risk factors for suicide (like veterans, immigrants or those who have experienced trauma) are at elevated at risk of suicide despite their religiosity.

Conclusion

After a review of the literature, it emerges that religious denominations and other factors can have an influence on suicide. Some religions have higher rates of suicide, and some have lower rates, which may be explained by the value system of those religions or the social support of those religions.

The suicide risk by religion, from highest to lowest is below:

  1. Protestant Christian
  2. Catholic Christian
  3. Jewish

Other religions with less well established data sets can be compared to each other, but not necessarily to other religions: Islam has a lower level of suicide than Hinduism, while Buddhism has a lower level of suicide than Native American spirituality.

References

Amato, J. J., Kayman, D. J., Lombardo, M., & Goldstein, M. F. (2016). Spirituality and religion: Neglected factors in preventing veteran suicide?. Pastoral Psychology, doi:10.1007/s11089-016-0747-8

Dyson, J., Cobb, M., Forman, D. (1997) The meaning of spirituality: a literature review. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 26(6). Retrieved on March 3, 2017 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.00446.x/abstract doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.00446.x

Durkheim, E. (1897). Le suicide: étude de sociologie. F. Alcan: Chicago, IL.

Eliezer, W., & Daniel, S. (2012). Suicide in Judaism with a Special Emphasis on Modern Israel. Religions, Vol 3, Iss 3, Pp 725-738 (2012), (3), 725. doi:10.3390/rel3030725

Ineichen, B. (1998). The influence of religion on the suicide rate: Islam and Hinduism compared. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 1(1), 31.

Lawrence, R. E., Brent, D., Mann, J. J., Burke, A. K., Grunebaum, M. F., Galfalvy, H. C., & Oquendo, M. A. (2016). Religion as a risk factor for suicide attempt and suicide ideation among depressed patients. Journal Of Nervous And Mental Disease, 204(11), 845-850. doi:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000484

Lawrence, R. E., Oquendo, M. A., & Stanley, B. (2016). Religion and suicide risk: A systematic review. Archives Of Suicide Research, 20(1), 1-21. doi:10.1080/13811118.2015.1004494

Mandhouj, O., Perroud, N., Hasler, R., Younes, N., & Huguelet, P. (2016). Characteristics of spirituality and religion among suicide attempters. Journal Of Nervous And Mental Disease, 204(11), 861-867. doi:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000497

Norko, M. A., Freeman, D., Phillips, J., Hunter, W., Lewis, R., & Viswanathan, R. (2017). Can Religion Protect Against Suicide?. Journal Of Nervous & Mental Disease, 205(1), 9-14. doi:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000615

Siegrist, M. (1996). Church Attendance, Denomination, and Suicide Ideology. Journal Of Social Psychology, 136(5), 559-566.

Thimmaiah, R., Poreddi, V., Ramu, R., Selvi, S., & Math, S. (2016). Influence of Religion on Attitude Towards Suicide: An Indian Perspective. Journal Of Religion & Health, 55(6), 2039-2052. doi:10.1007/s10943-016-0213-z

Torgler, B., & Schaltegger, C. (2014). Suicide and Religion: New Evidence on the Differences Between Protestantism and Catholicism. Journal For The Scientific Study Of Religion, 53(2), 316-340. doi:10.1111/jssr.12117

Wu, A., Wang, J., & Jia, C. (2015). Religion and Completed Suicide: a Meta-Analysis. Plos ONE, 10(6), 1-14. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0131715

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2017), "Suicide and Religion," retrieved on June 26, 2019 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/suicide-and-religion/.

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Suicide Awareness Presentation

IntroductionSuicide Presentation Slide

The following is a presentation I prepared in 2012 on Suicide Awareness for delivery at Durham College. It’s just been sitting on my hard drive since then, so I’ve made it available for other organizations that wish to provide suicide awareness presentations. The content is reproduced below, and you can download the slides here. Although the content takes a Canadian focus, I’ve noted US statistics where possible.

Agenda

  • About Me
  • A Note on Wording
  • Definitions
  • Suicide Statistics
  • Suicide True and False
  • Risk Factors for Suicide
  • Warning Signs for Suicide
  • How to Help
  • Support Networks
  • Case Study

About Me

  • Currently Director of Online Support & Communication @ Distress Centre Durham
  • Distress Centre Durham History
    • 1600+ hours of telephone experience
    • 600+ hours of online chat and text
    • Former Placement Student, Summer Student (x3)
  • Trainer Experience
    • Distress Centre Durham Basic Training
    • DCIB Suicide Risk Assessment
    • Online Chat and Text (ONTX) Training

Before we start…

  • People do not commit suicide
  • You commit a crime, you get committed to a psychiatric hospital
  • Instead, people who take their own lives are said to have suicided or alternately died by suicide, as one dies of lung cancer or a person is murdered.

Definitions

  • Suicide – Intentional taking of one’s own life
  • Suicidal ideation – Clinical term for suicidal thoughts
  • Parasuicide
    • A suicidal attempt that is designed to fail or be discovered
    • Not necessarily attention-seeking behaviour

What is a Crisis?

A crisis is any event that overwhelms someone’s coping mechanisms, those things a person does to solve or deal with a problem

Suicide Statistics

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in Canada for 18-24 year olds (behind car accidents) (Statistics Canada, 2015)
  • More than 90% of suicide victims may have had diagnosable mental illness (Bertolote, et. al., 2004) – Note that there is still not consensus on this figure, it still makes an important point about mental health treatment for suicide
  • 21,115 people died by suicide in Ontario in 2005
  • The suicide rate is 12.7 per 100,000 males and 4.1 per 100,000 females in Ontario (Statistics Canada, 2014a)
  • The Aboriginal suicide rate is 11 times higher than the national average (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2011)

Risk Factors for Suicide (CDC, 2016)

  • Mental Illness
  • Clinical Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Schizophrenia all increase risk
  • Financial Difficulties
  • Bullying (+ Cyber-bullying) for young adults
  • Relationship Troubles
  • Academic / School Troubles
  • Legal Problems
  • History of Physical / Sexual Abuse
  • Bereavement Grief and Loss
    • Especially a suicide-related loss
    • Interrupted (or “Complicated” Grief)

Suicide True and False

(See: Common Suicide Myths)

  • Most suicides involve drugs or alcohol…True! Up to 70% percent of suicides involve alcohol or drugs (Pompili, 2010)
  • Talking about suicide can plant the idea in someone’s head False! Most people feeling suicidal want to talk about their feelings
  • Teenagers have the highest rate of suicide False! The highest risk population is 45-54 years of age in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2014b), and in the US (CDC, 2014)
  • The most common suicide method is pills False! The most common method (overall) is hanging (in Canada: Statistics, 2016); in the US it is firearm: Barber & Miller, 2014)
  • Most suicidal people leave notes False! Only about 30% of suicides leave notes (Shioiri, et. al., 2005)
  • Suicidal people want to die False! Most suicidal people don’t want to die, but want the pain to stop

Suicide Risk Factors vs. Suicide Warning Signs

  • Risk Factors are things that increase the likelihood someone will suicide because those things make coping more difficult
  • Warning signs are clues that a suicidal crisis may be imminent
  • It takes careful clinical examination by a trained mental health professional to determine a person’s level of risk in the medium and long-term

Suicide Warning Signs (AAS, n.d.)

  • Sudden Mood changes (either very happy or very sad)
  • Sudden appetite changes
  • Talking about life in the past tense
  • Telling people goodbye, tying up loose ends
  • Talking about suicidal acts, feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Making lethality statements (“I wish I could fall asleep and not wake up”)

How to Help

  • Listen!
  • Provide empathy
  • Refer to resources
  • Distress Centre (1-800-452-0688, 905-430-2522)
  • Durham College Counselling Services
  • Durham Mental Health Services
  • Other resources (e.g. spiritual)
  • Explore options
  • Build support network

Support Network

  • Three levels of support
    • Internal
    • External
    • Peripheral
  • Strong support network allows developing the resources that provides the strongest defence against suicide
  • Internal Supports
    • Things that we do ourselves to cope with stress
    • Examples include:
      • Journalling
      • Listening to music / Playing an Instrument
      • Running / Working Out / Exercise
      • Prayer / Meditation / Spirituality
      • Art
      • Yoga / Massage
      • Deep Breathing
      • Other Hobbies
  • External Supports
    • People in our “inner circle” we reach out to
    • Examples include:
      • Family
      • Friends
      • Pets
  • Peripheral Supports
    • Community agencies and others outside of our inner circle
    • Examples include:
    • Distress Lines (e.g. Distress Centre)
    • Family Doctors
    • Psychiatrists / Psychologists
    • Durham Mental Health Services
    • Clergy

Summary

  • Suicide is usually preventable
  • Asking about suicidal thoughts is the most important thing you can do
  • Never be afraid to reach out to a professional for help

Case Study

The original training included a case study derived from Distress Centre Durham training materials.

References

American Association of Suicidiology (AAS). (n.d.) “Warning Signs | American Association of Suicidology. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from www.suicidology.org/resources/warning-signs

Barber, C.W., Miller, M.J. (2014) Reducing a Suicidal Person’s Access to Lethal Means of Suicide: A Research Agenda. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 47(3S2):S264–S272

Bertolote, J. M., Fleischmann, A., De Leo, D., & Wasserman, D. (2004). Psychiatric Diagnoses and Suicide: Revisiting the Evidence. Crisis: The Journal Of Crisis Intervention And Suicide Prevention, 25(4), 147-155. doi:10.1027/0227-5910.25.4.147

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011) Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016) Suicide: Risk and Protective Factors. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/riskprotectivefactors.html

Pompili, M., Serafini, G., Innamorati, M., Dominici, G., Ferracuti, S., Kotzalidis, G. D., … Lester, D. (2010). Suicidal Behavior and Alcohol Abuse. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7(4), 1392–1431. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph7041392

Public Health Agency of Canada. The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Canada 2006. Ottawa, ON: Public Health Agency of Canada,  2011. Available at: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/human-humain06/

Shioiri, T., Nishimura, A., Akazawa, K., Abe, R., Nushida, H., Ueno, Y., & … Someya, T. (2005). Incidence of note-leaving remains constant despite increasing suicide rates. Psychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, 59(2), 226-228. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1819.2005.01364.x

Statistics Canada. (2014a) “Suicides and suicide rate, by sex and by age group (Both sexes no.)” from CANSIM, table 102-0551. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/hlth66a-eng.htm on August 24, 2016.

Statistics Canada. (2014b) “Suicides and suicide rate, by sex and by age group (Both sexes no.)” from CANSIM, table 102-0551. Retrieved electronically from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/hlth66a-eng.htm on August 24, 2016.

Statistics Canada. (2015) Table 102-0561 – Leading causes of death, total population, by age group and sex, Canada, annual, CANSIM (database). Retrieved on August 24, 2016.

Statistics Canada. (2016) Navaneelan, T. Suicide rates: An overview. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-624-x/2012001/article/11696-eng.htm

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2016), "Suicide Awareness Presentation," retrieved on June 26, 2019 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/suicide-awareness-presentation/.
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Interprofessional Education in Suicide Prevention

Introduction to Interprofessional Education

This is an essay I wrote in 2015 for the course HSRV 306 Critical Reflection for Practice at Athabasca University.

Interprofessional education (IPE) is defined as “the process, through which two or more professions learn, with, from and about each other to improve collaboration and the quality of service” (CAIPE, 1997) IPE has been practiced in various forms for decades (Smith & Clouder, 2010) but is most commonly associated with healthcare and the social sciences.

The advantage of interprofessional education is that it allows allied fields to benefit from “pooling together of expertise in teams [that] would make them more effective and efficient” (Illingworth & Cheivanayagam, 2007) than those professions working on their own. As there is much overlap in the work provided by professionals in social work, psychology and psychiatry this pooling together of resources has the potential to improve their skills and competencies.

One competency required by these professions is the ability to prevent suicide, which involves the interrelated skills of risk assessment and suicide intervention. How much an individual may need to intervene will differ depending on their role, with some professionals needing only to recognize the signs and refer them on, while others may be required to perform regular and comprehensive suicide risk assessment and intervention.

Suicide and Mental Health Professionals

The suicide rate in Canada has remained relatively steady in Canada for several years, with more than 3,000 individuals dying by suicide in Canada each year. (Statistics Canada, 2014) A 2002 meta-review demonstrated that many of these people visited physicians or nurses for physical health complaints before their death. (Luoma, Martin & Pearson, 2002) Whether or not these physical complaints were related to their mental health issues or not, an opportunity for suicide screening and subsequent referral was missed.

One study on suicide screening, focused on Emergency Departments in the United States found that when universal screening was implemented, requiring all patients to be screened for suicide regardless of their presenting problem, the rate of detected suicidal thoughts doubled. (Boudreaux, et. al., 2015) This demonstrates the importance of all healthcare professionals being competent in the basics of suicide screening.

Mental health professionals regularly treat suicidal clients, with Feldman & Freedmanthal’s 2006 study reporting 78% of social workers had provided service to a suicidal client in the previous year. While mental health professionals regularly work with suicidal clients they may lack the skills or confidence to respond appropriately.

Ruth et. al. (2006) conducted interviews with social work students, faculty and Deans and discovered that the majority of programs provided their social worker students less than 4 hours of education on suicide assessment during their graduate programs. This resulting lack of coverage left social work students feeling unconfident working with suicidal clients, and indeed scared of the possibility that a client will reveal suicidality, a fact noted by other researchers as well. (Osteen, Jacobson & Sharpe, 2014) This paralyzing fear may contribute to burnout or other negative professional consequences and ultimately make them less effective practitioners.

Interprofessional education has the potential to improve the care of suicidal clients by allowing professionals to take advantage of the best practices in education present in allied fields. By borrowing best practices from other helping professions the number of competent professionals may ultimately be increased and the number of suicides or potential suicides that are undetected may be reduced.

Potential drawbacks to adopting interprofessional education that have been documented in the literature include the costs of implementation (such as redesigning curriculums) and the possible loss of professional identity among different groups who learn the same skills (Smith & Clouder, 2010) Given that mental health care is already well-diffused (with each professional area like social work, psychology and psychiatry having specialties but ultimately all being able to provide counselling or therapy with training), this may be less of an issue in suicide prevention, which is currently practiced by volunteers all the way up to Psychiatrists and Psychologists holding doctorates.

Interprofessional Education in Physical and Mental Health

There are a number of approaches to education in mental health fields (social work and psychology) and physical health fields (nursing and non-psychiatric medicine), including best practices that have demonstrated improved knowledge transfer, satisfaction and skill within their respective professional programs.

Physical health professions include general medicine practiced by physicians as well as nurses, who are recognized as professionals in their own right (College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba, n.d.). Professional schools of nursing have a long history, stretching back to the early 1900s (Schekel, 2009), while the first medical school opened in Italy in the 9th century. (de Divitiis, Cappabianca, & de Divitiis, 2004)

Education of physicians and nurses has always emphasized hands-on treatment and “learning by doing”, but especially since the 15th century when the first cadaver dissections were performed for medical students. (Rath & Garg, 2006)

Current techniques used in medical and nursing education include case studies, where the signs and symptoms of an illness and a patient’s history are described in detail and a diagnosis or treatment is sought (Raurell-Torreda, et. al., 2015), and simulated patients who are specially trained actors that medical students interact with in order to experience conducting clinical interviews, assessment and diagnosis (Uys & Treadwell, 2014).

Both case studies and simulated patients have shown utility in general nursing and medicine according to Luebbert & Popkess (2015). Some studies have specifically explored their utility with suicidal patients, such as Norrish (2009) who used cases to teach suicide risk assessment skills to Omani medical students.

Techniques that have demonstrated effectiveness with Psychology and Social Work students on the other hand, include role-playing (Murdoch, Bottorff & McCullough, 2013) where students practice simulated complaints with each other in order to develop the skills of recognizing and responding to suicidal statements, and evidence-based lecture. (Scott, 2015)

Gate-keeper training programs that are designed to teach lay people the basic skills of recognizing the signs of suicide and referring individuals to trained professionals, for instance, QPR (Lancaster, et. al., 2014) have demonstrated effectiveness in increasing confidence and skill in both nursing (Bolster, Holliday, Oneal & Shaw, 2015) and social work students. (Sharpe, Frey, Osteen & Bernes, 2014)

While domain-specific education for nurses and physicians has begun to be developed, it lacks the exploration of knowledge-transfer and rigorous methodology necessary for it to be as effective as possible. One example of beginning nurses education is Kishi et. al. (2014), who had emergency room nurses in Japan completing a 1 day workshop. The workshop covered suicide risk assessment, management of the immediate suicidal crisis, referring patients to long-term resources, and attitudes towards suicidal patients. This workshop was taught using lectures and case studies, with a pre and post-test design on a scale measuring attitudes towards suicide (but not knowledge transfer or skill acquisition.) The lack of a knowledge-transfer component means these nurses are unable to demonstrate whether they learned anything or if they apply their training to their patients.

Other exercises in integrating suicide prevention into social work including Scott (2015) who developed a full-semester course for MSW students that taught suicide risk assessment, intervention, and public health interventions such as media guidelines around suicide. Luebbert & Popkess (2015) had students complete either a video-taped lecture or speak to a standardized patient after being exposed to material on suicide assessment and found that the group that worked with the standardized patient felt much more confident.

What is lacking in nursing and medical education is a focus on evidence-based practice in suicide prevention, an issue noted by nursing faculty (Kalb et. al., 2015) Additionally providing opportunities for hands-on practice through exercises like case studies, simulated patients, and roleplaying will allow for necessary deep knowledge transfer.

Conclusion

Suicide prevention is a field ripe for improvement by integrating the best practices from a variety of allied fields. Most notably, from nursing and general medicine the case study and simulated/standard patients may help social workers and psychologists reduce their fear of working with suicidal clients, while the strong evidence-based lecture, roleplaying and gate-keeeper training may give busy nurses and physicians an opportunity to develop suicide awareness and referral skills that will allow them to intervene to prevent death.

References

Bolster, C., Holliday, C., Oneal, G., & Shaw, M. (2015). Suicide Assessment and Nurses: What Does the Evidence Show?. Online Journal Of Issues In Nursing, 20(1), 1-1 1p. doi:10.3912/OJIN.Vol20No01Man02

Boudreaux, E., Allen, M., Goldstein, A.B., Manton, A., Espinola, J. & Miller, I. (2015) Improving Screening and Detection of Suicide Risk: Results from the Emergency Department Safety Assessment and Follow-up Evaluation (ED-SAFE) Effectiveness Trial. Society for Prevention Research 23rd Annual Meeting. Accessed Dec 10 2015 from https://spr.confex.com/spr/spr2015/webprogram/Paper23206.html

de Divitiis, E., Cappabianca, P. & de Divitiis, O. (2004) The “schola medica salernitana”: the forerunner of the modern university medical schools. Neurosurgery. 55(4);722-44

CAIPE (1996) Principles of Interprofessional Education. London: CAIPE.

College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba. n.d. “Standards of Practice for Registered Nurses: Nursing Practice Expectations” Accessed electronically from https://www.crnm.mb.ca/uploads/document/document_file_89.pdf?t=1438266260 on Dec 11 2015.

Feldman, B. N., & Freedenthal, S. (2006). Social work education in suicide intervention and prevention: An unmet need? Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. 36. 467–480

Illingworth, P. & Chelvanayagam, S. (2007) Benefits of interprofessional education in health care. British Journal of Nursing. 16(2):121-4

Kalb, K.A., O’Conner-Von, S.K., Brockway, C., Rierson, C.L. & Sendelbach, S. (2015) Evidence-Based Teaching Practice in Nursing Education: Faculty Perspectives and Practices. Nursing Education Perspectives. DOI: 10.5480/14-1472

Kishi, Y., Otsuka, K., Akiyama, K., Yamada, T., Sakamoto, Y., Yanagisawa, Y., Morimura, H., Kawanishi, C., Higashioka, H., Miyake, Y. & Thurber, S. (2014) Effects of a Training Workshop on Suicide Prevention Among Emergency Room Nurses. Crisis. 35(5):357–361 DOI: 10.1027/0227-5910/a000268

Lancaster, P.G., Moore, J.T., Putter, S.E., Chen, P.Y., Cigularov, K.P., Baker, A., Quinnett, P. (2014) Feasibility of a web-based gatekeeper training: implications for suicide prevention. Journal of Suicide and Life Threatening Behaviour. 44(5):510-23. DOI: 10.1111/sltb.12086

Luebbert, R. & Popkess, A. (2015) The Influence of Teaching Method on Performance of Suicide Assessment in Baccalaureate Nursing Students. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. 21(2) 126-133. DOI: 10.1177/1078390315580096

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Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2016), "Interprofessional Education in Suicide Prevention," retrieved on June 26, 2019 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/interprofessional-education-suicide-prevention/.
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Building a Suicide Prevention Group

Introduction

I’ve had the pleasure of serving on the Durham Region Youth Suicide Prevention (YSP) Action Group since February 2016. The goal of the YSP is to address the rising youth suicide rates in Durham Region in Ontario. This group was financially supported by a 3-year grant from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

For other regions interested in implementing similar suicide prevention groups (whether to address youth, elderly, military, or other targeted group suicide rates or others) the following may be helpful. Because my group was focused on youth suicide prevention, more of the resources below apply to that but the concepts are equally applicable to others.

Building Capacity

The first step is for your suicide prevention group to learn about suicide in your targeted population. Academic journals can be helpful in this way, as can other resources depending on the group you are looking for. I’ve linked some examples below, including a number of blog articles.

Learning About Adult Suicide

Learning About Elder Suicide

Learning About Law Enforcement Suicide

Learning About Male Suicide

Learning About Military Suicide

Learning About Youth Suicide

Choosing Your Suicide Prevention Group Members

In order to develop a suicide prevention group, you must identify individuals in the community who can participate. In order to be most effective, a suicide group should be cross-sectorial – that is, it should include individuals from a variety of stakeholders that are affected by that demographic. Examples of sectors and include:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Faith / Religion
  • Hospital / Medical
  • Mental Health
  • Substance Abuse

It is important to recognize that regardless of the group you target, many of these stakeholders will be relevant. For instance, in an elderly suicide prevention group, organizations that work with seniors directly (such as seniors centres, long-term care facilities and hospices) will be important, but faith-based organizations, substance abuse workers and criminal justice may provide valuable insight based on their work with elderly clients.

Conducting A Needs Assessment

Once you’ve identified the group of individuals who will make a part of your suicide prevention group, the next step is to conduct a needs assessment. Needs assessments are formal explorations of what exists in your community, and what does not. This allows you to identify the gaps and make a formal plan for eliminating those gaps.

Examples of completed needs assessment for suicide prevention include Shasta County, California and Juneau, Alaska.

This strategic planning tool from TogetherToLive can help you start your needs assessment process. This process should also include community consultation via surveys, focus groups or other methods to collect information from individuals who have lived experience with suicide in your community, especially in your target demographic.

Choosing Interventions

Now that you’ve conducted a needs assessment, you have an idea what elements are lacking in your community. Interventions fall into one of three categories:

  1. Universal Interventions apply to everyone in a particular area. For instance, all individuals who present to an emergency room are administered a suicide screening measure; this is a universal intervention
  2. Indicated Interventions apply to individuals who are identified as high-risk for suicide. For instance, students who appear to be experiencing emotional health issues are referred to school mental health counselling
  3. Selected Interventions apply to individuals who present with suicide risk factors or warning signs. These can include referrals to therapists, crisis lines or transportation to the hospital for emergency mental health treatment.

There are a variety of interventions that your suicide prevention group can choose, targeting four different categories. These categories are Life Promotion (or Primary Prevention), Suicide Prevention, and Postvention.

Life Promotion Interventions

Life promotion interventions are those that focus on “build[ing] their resilience through their personal strengths, available resources and relationships with those around them.” These interventions focus on individuals who haven’t yet experienced suicidality. For youth, this will involve programs about self-esteem, healthy relationships and problem-solving, while for soldiers this might include PTSD awareness, managing combat stress and accessing physical and mental health resources as needed.

Suicide Prevention Interventions

Suicide prevention interventions are those that focus on individuals who have expressed suicidal ideation or at risk for suicide. This is the most common category for intervention because these individuals have begun to slide down the river towards suicide.

  • Restricting Access to Means – Restricting access to lethal means involves training individuals to assess and remove lethal means like firearms or lethal quantities from suicidal individuals so that they are able to stay safer. (Johnson, et. al., 2011)
  • Web-Based Suicide Prevention/Support Services – These include online discussion boards and other resources that provide platforms for suicidal people to discuss their issues, crisis chat services and other web-based programs. The Best Practices for Online Technologies (Reidenberg, Wolens, & James, 2013) can help with this.
  • Suicide Prevention Training for Primary Care Physicians – Primary care physicians represent an important point of contact for suicidal individuals. Primary care physicians often report feeling undertrained to adequately respond to suicide (McDowell, Lineberry & Bostwick, 2011).
  • Suicide Screening – Suicide screening involves administering a tool to individuals without necessarily having identified suicide risk yet. This can be a universal or indicated method. The ED-SAFE study (discussed more under “Emergency Department and Follow-Up Care” explains the advantages of universal screening. Troister et. al. (2015) discusses three screening tools: the Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI-II), the Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS) and the Psychache Scale.
  • Gatekeeper Training – Gatekeeeper Training equips laypersons with the tools to recognize suicide risk and to connect with medium and long-term resources like crisis lines and therapy. Popular (and validated) crisis lines include ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training; Rogers, 2010) and QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer; Quinnett, 2012).
  • Suicide Hotlines and Crisis Lines – Suicide hotlines and crisis lines provide immediate emotional support, suicide risk assessment, crisis intervention and safety planning. They are an important element in the suicide prevention framework by catching individuals who may be very close to suicide. Crisis line outcomes have been studied (Kalafat, 2007; Gould, et. al., 2007) and found to have a range of benefits to callers.
  • Psychological Treatment / Psychiatric Treatment – Psychological and psychiatric treatment includes therapy, counselling, medication and a range of other treatments that are available and provided by mental health clinicians. The availability of mental health treatment can have an impact on the suicide rate. (Jagodic, 2013; Kapusta, et. al., 2010)
  • Emergency Department and Follow-Up Care – Emergency departments represent an important access point for mental health care. Universal screening with the ED-SAFE Tool has been shown to double the rate of detected suicide versus a control population. (Boudreaux, et. al., 2015) Additionally follow up has been shown to reduce the rate of re-admission. (Harrison, et. al., 2011)
  • Reducing the Harmful Use of Alcohol – Substance abuse is significantly related to suicidal behaviour. (Wilcox, Conner, & Caine, 2004) By assessing the risk of substance abuse and putting in place treatment options for the targeted population, the impact of addiction or harmful use of substances, including alcohol can be reduced.

Postvention Interventions

Postvention interventions refer to those items that are implemented in the aftermath of a suicide death. A number of interventions are listed on the TogetherToLive Postvention section. Some of these resources are explored below:

  • Provide immediate debriefing and information to survivors helps reduce the impact of the loss (Cox et. al., 2012; Parsons, 1996; Celotta, 1995; King, 1999) This debriefing should provide psychoeducation on grieving, depression and potential post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while also emphasizing the importance of grieving.
  • Identify individuals at high risk and reach out to them (Celotta, 1995; Carter & Brooks, 1990). How this occurs will differ depending on the targeted population but it is important that a system is in place to refer individuals for support (an indicated risk strategy) and ensure that all those affected know how to reach out.
  • Ensure the media provides a respectful response to the suicide that acknowledges its impact without glorifying it (Bohanna & Wang, 2012; MediaWise, 2003) Safe messaging strategies can be implemented to reduce the risk of suicide contagion

Implementing Your Interventions

Once you’ve determined the interventions you would like to choose, you must begin to implement them. This can be accomplished by breaking your suicide group into sub-teams that focus on specific interventions. This allows you to begin to tweak your approach by seeing your chosen interventions applied in actual practice. Examples of implementations for some of the above interventions could include:

  • Providing ASIST gatekeeper training to local community members
  • Arranging for training of primary care physicians in suicide risk assessment
  • Distributing posters with information on local crisis lines in schools
  • Working with the hospital to deliver follow-up calls to patients seen in the Emergency Department for mental health issues

This effort usually requires support from the agencies involved (such as the hospital, the school, etc.) and therefore it is helpful if these individuals are present on your suicide prevention group.

Evaluating Your Suicide Prevention Group

Once you’ve implemented your interventions, evaluation will help you see the impact of your suicide prevention group activities. The exact method in which you measure your impact will differ depending on the interventions you choose, but could include things like:

  • Tracking the number of calls to local crisis lines or admissions to hospital for suicide-related behaviours
  • Counting the number of people you delivered gateekeeper training to
  • Providing pre and post-assessment surveys to gauge learning by people attending trainings
  • Measuring the suicide rate in your community or in your demographic

Ensuring that you have an evaluation plan designed before you implement your interventions will prevent you from forgetting to collect data or collecting the wrong data. Your suicide prevention group can then review this information and tweak your strategy as time goes on, altering the strategy or focusing on new interventions and goals.

References

Bohanna, I., & Wang, X. (2012). Media guidelines for the responsible reporting of suicide: A review of effectiveness. Crisis: The Journal Of Crisis Intervention And Suicide Prevention, 33(4), 190-198. doi:10.1027/0227-5910/a000137

Boudreaux, E., Allen, M., Goldstein, A.B., Manton, A., Espinola, J., Miller, I. (2015) Improving Screening and Detection of Suicide Risk: Results from the Emergency Department Safety Assessment and Follow-up Evaluation (ED-SAFE) Effectiveness Trial. Society for Prevention Research 23rd Annual Meeting. Accessed Jun 28 2015 from https://spr.confex.com/spr/spr2015/webprogram/Paper23206.html

Carter, B.F., Brooks, A. (1990) Suicide postvention: Crisis or opportunity?. School Counselor. 37(5)

Celotta, B. (1995) The aftermath of suicide: Postvention in a school setting. Journal of Mental Health Counseling. 17(4)

Cox, G.R., Robinson, J., Williamson, M., Lockley, A., Cheung, Y.T.D., Pirkis, J.  (2012) Suicide Clusters in Young People Evidence for the Effectiveness of Postvention. Crisis. 33(4) 208-214 doi: : 10.1027/0227-5910/a000144

Gould, M. S., Kalafat, J., HarrisMunfakh, J. L., & Kleinman, M. (2007). An evaluation of crisis hotline outcomes part 2: suicidal callers. Suicide And Life-Threatening Behavior, (3), 338.

Harrison, P. L., Hara, P. A., Pope, J. E., Young, M. C., & Rula, E. Y. (2011). The impact of postdischarge telephonic follow-up on hospital readmissions. Population Health Management, 14(1), 27-32. doi:10.1089/pop.2009.0076

Jagodic, H. K., Rokavec, T., Agius, M., & Pregelj, P. (2013). Availability of mental health service providers and suicide rates in Slovenia: a nationwide ecological study. Croatian Medical Journal, (5), 444. doi:10.3325/cmj.2013.54.444

Johnson, R. M., Frank, E. M., Ciocca, M., & Barber, C. W. (2011). Training Mental Healthcare Providers to Reduce At-Risk Patients’ Access to Lethal Means of Suicide: Evaluation of the CALM Project. Archives Of Suicide Research, 15(3), 259-264. doi:10.1080/13811118.2011.589727

Kalafat, J., Gould, M. S., Harris Munfakh, J. L., & Kleinman, M. (2007). An evaluation of crisis hotline outcomes part 1: nonsuicidal crisis callers. Suicide And Life-Threatening Behavior, (3), 322.

Kapusta, N. D., Posch, M., Niederkrotenthaler, T., Fischer-Kern, M., Etzersdorfer, E., & Sonneck, G. (2010). Availability of mental health service providers and suicide rates in Austria: a nationwide study. Psychiatric Services, 61(12), 1198-1203. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.61.12.1198

King, K. (1999) High School Suicide Suicide Postvention: Recommendations For an Effective Program. American Journal of Health Studies. 15(4).

Lapierre, S., Erlangsen, A., Waern, M., De Leo, D., Oyama, H., Scocco, P., & … Quinnett, P. (2011). A systematic review of elderly suicide prevention programs. Crisis: The Journal Of Crisis Intervention And Suicide Prevention, 32(2), 88-98. doi:10.1027/0227-5910/a000076

McDowell, A. K., Lineberry, T. W., & Bostwick, J. M. (2011). Practical suicide-risk management for the busy primary care physician. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, (8), 792.

MediaWise. (2003) The Media and Suicide. Accessed electronically from http://www.mediawise.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/The-Media-and-Suicide-.pdf on November 26, 2016.

Parsons, R.D. (1996) Student suicide: The counselor’s postvention role. Elementary School Guidance & Counseling, 31(1)

Reidenberg, D., Wolens, F. & James, C. (2013). Responding to a cry for help: Best practices for online technologies. Retrieved on November 26, 2016 from http://www.sprc.org/resources-programs/responding-cry-help-best-practices-online-technologies

Rogers, P. (2010) Review of the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training Program (ASIST). LivingWorks. Retrieved on November 26, 2016 from https://www.livingworks.net/dmsdocument/274.

Troister, T., D’Agata, M. T., & Holden, R. R. (2015). Suicide risk screening: Comparing the Beck Depression Inventory-II, Beck Hopelessness Scale, and Psychache Scale in undergraduates. Psychological Assessment, 27(4), 1500-1506. doi:10.1037/pas0000126

Quinnett, P. (2012) QPR Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention The Model, Theory and Research. QPR Institute. Retrieved on November 26, 2016 from https://www.qprinstitute.com/uploads/QPR%20Theory%20Paper.pdf.

Wilcox, H. C., Conner, K. R., & Caine, E. D. (2004). Association of alcohol and drug use disorders and completed suicide: an empirical review of cohort studies. Drug And Alcohol Dependence, 76(Supplement), S11-S19. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2004.08.003

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2016), "Building a Suicide Prevention Group," retrieved on June 26, 2019 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/building-suicide-prevention-group/.

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