Emergency Departments

Emergency Departments

Emergency Departments (ED) are a key contact point for persons who are contemplating or have attempted suicide and thus provide a potentially life-saving opportunity to intervene with these persons, whether they present for medical emergencies or mental health crises. Medical professionals are in a position to identify those at risk for suicide through screening processes and help them get connected to resources and safety when risk is identified.

Many persons seen in emergency departments do not follow through with accessing the mental health referrals they are given. Numbers have shown that about 1 in 10 suicides are completed by people seen in an ED within 2 months of their death. This information has led to a national effort focused on providing follow-up services to persons seen in the Emergency Department with suicidal ideation or a suicide attempt.

Below are some resources for Emergency Department Personnel:

  • The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) has launched a new online course, Preventing Suicide in Emergency Department Patients. This self-paced course teaches health care professionals who work in an ED how to conduct screening, assessment, and brief interventions, such as safety planning and lethal means counseling. It also addresses patient-centered care for patients with suicide risk, patient safety during the ED visit, and incorporating suicide prevention into discharge planning.
  • An online suicide prevention training for physicians, “at-risk in the ER” teaches how to recognize and respond to patients at-risk for suicide and substance abuse in the Emergency Department. The training has been found to be helpful by several states as it allows physicians to complete the online training at whatever time and place works best for them.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a brochure that can be ordered or downloaded for free titled After an Attempt: A Guide for Medical Providers in the Emergency Department Taking Care of Suicide Attempt Survivors that provides tips for providers to enhance emergency department treatment for people who have attempted suicide. The brochure discusses assessment, communicating with family and other treatment providers, and HIPAA.