What Can We Learn about the Recent Celebrity Suicides?

  1. With the recent suicide of some high profile people, allnurses wanted to look further into this and more importantly how we can identify suicidality among our patients.

    What Can We Learn about the Recent Celebrity Suicides?

    You only have to open a newspaper or click on a recent news article on the web to find that another celebrity or sports figure has committed suicide. From CBS news: "The deaths of designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain have caused media organizations to look at how they cover suicide." As the media debates how to cover suicide, we as nurses grapple over how to deal with this issue too. Our patients and staff are often very stressed. Much is expected of our staff. Our patients are stressed too - they are admitted and discharged very fast nowadays and we need to ensure they have the resources to meet their needs.

    allnurses was recently able to obtain an interview with Lisa Wolf, PhD, RN, CEN, FAEN, Director of the Emergency Nurses Association's Institute for Emergency Nursing Research

    With the recent high profile suicides what can the bedside and/or emergency nurse do to better assess patients for suicidality?

    Our research suggests that assessing for suicidality is a process that spans the entire ED visit. In addition to the general and direct questioning that most EDs have as part of their triage data, bedside nurses should pay attention to social situations, external support, ability to plan for BH management, and also the medications the patient is on, as a recently published JAMA study suggests that 25% of patients are on non-psychiatric medications which have depression and/or suicidality as side effects. It is really important that nurses ask about depression and suicidality, and follow up on the patient who does not disclose, but has a presentation suggestive of self-harm. It is also important that there be resources for patients who disclose suicidal ideation both in the hospital and in the community. (Please see the attached article)2Suicide takes a huge toll on ED staff if the patient comes through the ED. What kind of support could be offered to staff?
    Suicides of ED patients are generally treated as sentinel events. Critical incident debriefing and root cause analysis can offer improved systems.

    Suicide is thought of as a character flaw by some uninformed people. What should staff say to these uninformed people?

    Depression and suicidality are common; they are no more "character flaws" than are leukemia and asthma.

    ED staff are under a tremendous amount of pressure daily. What can we do as staff to reduce the risk of suicide?

    Nurse suicides in France have been linked to deteriorating working conditions (AJN, 2016). A study by the IENR published in 2015 described moral distress in emergency nurses as stemming directly from the perceived inability to provide excellent care to patients, also due to workplace conditions. Thus, it seems that to reduce the incidence of suicides by nurses, in addition to care for individuals such as appropriate counseling and medication, it is imperative that changes be made to the nursing work environment. This includes issues of appropriate staffing, reduction in lateral violence and workplace bullying, and a unit culture that supports nurses individually and collectively.

    Additionally, the issue of behavioral health will be one of the many topics discussed and educational opportunities offered at the Emergency Nurses Association's annual conference "Emergency Nursing 2018" in Pittsburgh. It is scheduled for Sept. 26-29. Here are relevant sessions:
    • Finding the Suicidal Patient: Triage Process for Safe Passage
    • Because We Asked: Pediatric Emergency Department Suicide Screening

    The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is: 1-800-273-8255

    We must all be attuned to the possibility of suicidality in our patients and even among our staff. Many of our patients and staff have a high suicide risk. There is help out there - its just a matter of connecting with them.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 18
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    2 Comments

  3. by   GypsyNurse0503
    Until we are treated as more than just easily replaceable cogs in the machine (or "just another brick in the wall" to borrow from Pink Floyd), nursing will, sadly, continue to have a high suicide risk. Management and your fellow overworked coworkers don't (seem to) care if you try setting boundaries; you are seen as a failure and a letdown, and are told as much, if you don't overextend yourself and pick up that extra shift/stay late/suck it up when you're used as a human punching bag. Heaven forbid you try to speak up and let them know you're having a difficult time---then you're seen as weak and a liability, and it's only a matter of time until management finds a way to get rid of you.
  4. by   amzyRN
    I think some of what we can learn is that people don't seek help for their mental health issues. I think much of this is due to stigma and misunderstanding. There was a case of a suicide at my last place of employment that was terribly sad. An employee commited suicide after his close work friend (worked on the same unit for many years) died of a heart attack. I meet nurses all the time who struggle with their own mental health problems, myself struggling with depression since I was a teenager. One way to help would be to provide education and outreach for the general public and health care providers.

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