I was recently asked to assist in locating publications, literature, and/or studies on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the rate of suicide in the United States. I was really quite surprised to learn that in fact, the suicide rate actually went down by 6% last year. What really struck me as interesting was that study after study, interview after interview, Americans reported increased depression, anxiety, and substance abuse during the pandemic but self-harm numbers went down!
As I talk with management teams and direct care staff, I breathe a sigh of relief as due to the limited movement within the center, limited access to unsafe practices and devices, the suicide rate has not increased overall in post-acute care. Sure, we have some providers who are struggling with an increase in suicide and/or suicide attempts, and our hearts go out to them, it is a sad state indeed. That said, is it time that we be more proactive versus reactive?
It is not always evident that someone is contemplating hurting themselves, especially today when isolation has been the norm. However, it doesn’t remove the responsibility we undertake with each admission, that of providing an environment where residents feel safe and cared for. It might be one of those areas that we should spend some time looking at? Maybe put a committee together to work on assessing the mental health of our residents and assist where we can, to improve their quality of life. Take a walk around your center, talk with your activity and social service staff, identify those residents who are acting a “little off” and start the assessment process there! You may be surprised at what you identify, even when the resident states “No, I’m fine”! Stay well, stay informed, and stay tuned!