This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, and it’s difficult to attempt to shed light into this dark corner that has been darkened further by the pandemic. 2020 has been a chasmic departure from normal life and routine for virtually everyone on our planet, and a year many of us would like to put in our rear-view mirror as quickly as possible.
Confronted daily with pandemic news intake on rising levels of COVID infection and death, we have to try and manage the darker, frequently unpleasant side of our psyches:
- FEAR of the virus and its effects on ourselves and for our family members.
- LOSS OF STABILITY when jobs are lost, homes are lost, food instability and social connections have largely been severed.
- QUARANTINING, which for many results in an isolation and loneliness that challenges our resiliency, our hope.
All of us suffer from the trauma of COVID. We all are living with post-traumatic stress in some form. This is unfortunately our new normal, and the effects will be with us for many years beyond an effective vaccine. And among the 12 phenotypes we have identified that cause people to die from suicide, PTSD is a major contributor and as a disorder likely carries its share of responsibility for the alarming rise in suicidality in our country.
There is a phrase our brilliant Chief Medical Officer at Nview, Dr. Tom Young, uses frequently when we talk about our company’s mental health assessment solutions. The phrase is “what now?” and is used in reference to what do we do when our assessments point to one (or several) mental disorders in a patient. For if we cannot (with our healthcare partners) help accurately define the next step in a treatment process, then the information we provide is diminished or worthless.
So, in that context, we ask healthcare providers, “what now?” Here are six things healthcare providers can do today to help address the mental health challenges we face today:
- Reduce the numbers of misdiagnosis and improper medication use with better screening and diagnostic solutions. Getting an accurate assessment and subsequent diagnosis at the point of patient intake is critical for better outcomes for the patient, the provider, the system, the payer…everyone.
- Implement technology for healthcare professionals that that is easy to use, does not increase clinician workloads and can drive revenue for clinical practices
- Screen everyone…period. Adults, children, everyone…and annually. With the current timeframe between disorders manifesting and getting treatment prescribed being 10 years, we have to catch (and accurately) mental health disorders much earlier. Mental health screening should begin at age six, according to the NCBI.
- Timely referral from primary care with well-developed protocols will save time and improve overall outcomes.
- All solutions should be evidence-based and clinically proven, like nView’s online assessments.
- More funding to our community health programs to expand their capabilities to serve mental health issues within the community. We are blessed to work with several partners who are helping to drive community-based solutions that are proactively addressing the needs of the underserved and are making a big and positive impact.
“WE’RE IN A TOUGH SPOT”
To quote a line from the film O Brother Where Art Thou, as a society “we’re in a tight spot.” And the tight spot will constrict further and more of our families and friends will die from suicide unless we do something about it. However challenged by pandemic restrictions and mandates, providers must find new ways to reach more individuals who are at risk for suicide ideation. And make sure you post community resources and hotlines on your websites and social media handles to help the patient populations you serve – help them know what to do next.