WBUR reports on suicide prevention efforts during and after emergency room visits

Study co-authored by UMMS shows screening and follow-up reduced suicide attempts by 30 percent

By Sandra Gray and Sarah Willey

UMass Medical School Communications

May 12, 2017
  Edwin Boudreaux, PhD
  Edwin Boudreaux, PhD

Suicide prevention efforts during and after emergency room visits can save lives, according to a new study co-authored by UMass Medical School and reported on by WBUR’s All Things Considered.

“In the study about 5.9 percent of patients were revealed to have some either past or current suicidal ideation or suicide attempts,” said Edwin Boudreaux, PhD, vice chair of emergency medicine research and professor of emergency medicine, psychiatry and quantitative health sciences at UMass Medical School. “When we called the patients and helped to guide them and provide social support and problem solving we reduced the rate of suicide attempts by around 30 percent over the 12 months after their emergency room visit.”

Boudreaux is principal investigator, along with colleagues from Harvard and Brown Universities, of the $12 million, five-year Emergency Department Safety Assessment and Follow-up Evaluation (ED-SAFE) study of suicide prevention interventions which can be deployed in emergency departments. The study’s latest findings, published in JAMA Psychiatry, are the result of a clinical trial conducted in eight hospitals with nearly 1,400 patients.

Asked why the intervention works, “We think many of these patients who are getting discharged aren’t getting any kind of help after they’re discharged,” Boudreaux said in the NPR interview. “With the advising calls they know they at least have someone they can trust and engage with.”

He noted that in many cases these counseling calls acted as a safety net between their ED visit and the subsequent mental health contact which may not take place for weeks after the ED visit. With more than 460,000 emergency department visits related to self-harm each year, and up to 40 percent of individuals who die by suicide having visited an emergency department in the year before death, authors of an accompanying editorial note that the public health implications of ED-SAFE are significant.

“The whole rationale for this study was that we knew from past research that there were many patients who had suicide risk that should be addressed but weren’t getting addressed simply because they weren’t being screened,” said Boudreaux.

Listen to the full interview here.

Related stories on UMassMedNow:

Study: Suicide screening, interventions in emergency department can save lives
Suicide risk can be intercepted in the emergency department, UMMS study finds
$12 million suicide-prevention study targets patients in the emergency room

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