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How Suicide Attempts Impact Vermont Emergency Departments and Hospitals

You might be surprised to learn that it is estimated that there are 32 suicide attempts for every suicide death. In Vermont, this would translate to over 3,000 suicide attempts being made in just one year.

In 2014, there were 326 hospitalizations and 1,183 Emergency Department (ED) visits for suicide attempts among VT residents throughout VT hospitals – yet that total number of 1,509 is not the total number of suicide attempts in that year. That total does not include less severe cases which may have been treated in a physician’s office, outpatient facility or by an EMT. Also not captured in this statistic, are people who have suicidal thoughts, those who make a suicide plan, or people who have depressive disorders that do not seek care or interact with the health care system.

From 2005 to 2014, the combined hospitalization and ED visit rate of Vermont residents being hospitalized in Vermont due to a suicide attempt, increased slightly from 201.5 to 257.8 per 100,000 over that 10-year period. This increase likely reflects both a slight increase in suicide attempts, in additional to an increased physician awareness of self‐harm injuries and/or decreased stigma towards mental health issues. Of those hospitalized, 66% were female  ̶  63% of those visiting the ED were also female. These percentages are in contrast to suicide deaths, where more males die as a result of suicide than females.

Vermont’s Zero Suicide initiative plans to reduce suicide attempts and fatalities while improving suicide safe care as a core component of health services. This plan aims to decrease the use of emergency departments for suicide attempts and to put supports in place to help avert a suicidal crisis. All of this requires families, community members, mental health systems and healthcare systems to recognize risk factors for suicide, know what to say or do, and how to help.

Our upcoming VT Suicide Prevention Symposium will be focusing on the “Pathway to Care for Effective Suicide Prevention” and the connections between healthcare and mental healthcare professionals. Find out what New Hampshire has implemented in their psychiatric facility and what Northwestern Medical Center’s ED is doing in St. Albans during one of the many illuminating panel workshop discussions at this year’s Symposium. To discover more about our VT Suicide Prevention Symposium keynotes and workshops, visit http://vtspc.org/symposium2017/

Sources: (VDH Suicide Data Brief, 2015) http://vtspc.org/vermont-statistics-on-suicide/

(Dr. Alex Crosby, CDC, 2013)  https://www.cdc.gov/cdcgrandrounds/archives/2015/september2015.htm