Every year, 42,000 Americans die by suicide; it is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
The risk factors are well-known — depression and other forms of mental illness, chronic illness, addiction, to name a few.
Now, one health care organization is mining its data to identify people who might need help before it is too late.
You could perhaps call this approach a reverse suicide hotline. “When people are under stress, due to a medical condition or a life change, it’s more difficult for them to reach out for help, so we reach out to them,” explained Aimee Peters, the chief clinical officer for tele-health provider AbilTo.
The company provides mental health care for those with depression and anxiety connected to chronic illness or major life events such as death of a spouse or parent. Every client is screened for suicide risk when they first enroll, Peters said.
Those who are at risk receive a phone call from a therapist to determine if they are in crisis.
“And if so, we are proactively arranging emergency care for those who are at imminent risk,” said Peters.
For people who occasionally have suicidal thoughts, but are not at imminent risk, the therapists arrange safety plans, things they can do when those thoughts come along.
“The individual would know ‘I should get up and I should go to that coffee shop,’ or ‘I should ask a friend to meet me for dinner,’ or ‘I should talk to somebody I really care about on the phone.'”
Peters said her staff follows up with at-risk clients twice a week to see how they are doing.
Another part of the plan is removing all possible means of completing suicide — such as weapons or medications — from the client’s home
The proactive approach is gaining momentum with other behavioral health providers as well, Peters said.