On Thursday, September 22, Pembroke Hospital CEO Tom Hickey presented to South Shore Hospital employees at a “Lunch & Learn” presentation entitled “Understanding Suicide Risk Assessment in the Hospital Setting.”

In his presentation, Hickey emphasized the prevalence of suicide deaths in the United States – it is the 11th leading cause of death for the general population and is the third leading cause among 18-24-year-olds. That rate more than doubles among those over the age of 65. Statistics show that 90 percent of all suicides had a diagnosable mental disorder, predominantly depression. Other factors that increase a patient’s risk of committing suicide include affective disorders, such as anxiety or panic attacks, personality disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and substance abuse. In general, the more diagnoses present, the higher the risk of suicide.

It is a health care providers’ role to perform a thorough risk assessment in order to determine which patients appear to be a higher risk, Hickey said. When assessing a patient for suicide risk, Hickey explained that it is important to let the patient lead the discussion as much as possible and to listen, making sure the ABC’s are congruent – a person’s affect, behavior, and cognition.
Hickey also explained a protocol staff use at Pembroke called STADDER, an acronym that stands for Safe environment, Assess, Determine Disposition, Educate (patient and family) and Refer.

While a small fraction (1-2 percent) of those who have attempted suicide in the past eventually succeed, most attempters (90 percent) never complete the act. Gender differences also play a role in suicide attempts and completions, with men being 4 times more at risk than women. However, 3 to 4 times more women attempt suicide, while 3 to 4 times more men succeed.
Those that are successful are also characterized by two major subgroups: those suffering from depression, and those struggling with alcoholism.

Protective factors also play a role in overall suicide risk, Hickey explained, including the presence of children in the home (except when post-partum psychosis is present), pregnancy, religious beliefs, and general life satisfaction.

This speaking event is a positive example of community outreach that builds strong relationships with area providers. Staff at South Shore Hospital were very appreciative of the time Mr. Hickey spent discussing this important topic with them.