Suicide: An EMS epidemic
At the 2016 Pinnacle Conference, the results of a mental health survey were reported. The survey revealed that an astounding 37% of the respondents contemplated suicide. The national average is 3.7%. An astounding 6.6% of respondents attempted suicide. The national average is 0.05%.
This is another “S” word that apparently makes some uncomfortable. It’s a word that we need to hear, speak and recognize functionally. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has a Behavioral Health Initiative (FLSI 13) that addresses surveillance, prevention, and intervention measures for suicide. As part of the initiative, Dr. Richard Gist et alia have written a “White Paper” which is full of great information. The CDC, American Psychiatric Association and the American Association of Suicidology, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention all offer great information at their websites. It’s somewhat surprising that with all of the educated, intelligent people addressing this issue, mental health professionals bemoan the inconsistent application of definitions, and difficulties in validating statistics. I was on a conference call recently in which EMS professionals clamored for EMS specific suicide statistics. What would that accomplish?
Using the arguably best data available from the CDC we know that in 2009, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death for people 10 years of age and older. More people died from suicide than from any of the following: septicemia, liver disease, hypertension, Parkinson’s Disease, Homicide, Pneumonitis, Benign Neoplasms, Aortic Aneurysm, HIV, or Viral Hepatitis. Here is a list of other suicide facts from the CDC:
The SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) blog has some frightening Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurrence statistics. Here are a few:
Do we need to be statisticians or mini-pseudo for mental health professionals to address stress, PTSD or suicide? If you think we do, let’s add depression to the mix. There are great resources available from local Licensed Mental Health Professionals and via the aforementioned web-sites. Training, consultations and posters are available.
We’re not Mental Health Professionals, but if we adhere to the concepts of the culture of safety, crew resource management, and just culture in conjunction with appropriate interaction with licensed mental health professionals might we not reduce occupational risk factors that affect risk of suicide?
The white paper I mentioned lists three essential conditions involved with suicide. Briefly, they are
Other Potential Warning Signs are substance abuse, hopelessness, purposelessness, anger, recklessness, feeling trapped, social withdrawal, anxiety, mood changes, sleep disturbances, and guilt or shame.
If we can truly communicate in an environment with peers who earn each other’s trust by celebrating victories, sharing defeats, and never expecting more from another than they expect from themselves, maybe we can more readily stay connected, know we’re not a burden, and never find pain or death acceptable. Suicide should not be the “S” in EMS.
Gist R, Taylor VH, Raak S. White paper: suicide surveillance, prevention and intervention measures for the US Fire Service Presented at: The Suicide and Depression Summit hosted by the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation. July 11 to 12, 2011, Baltimore, Maryland.
Marshall, J. Beyond Suicide Prevention: Building Caregiver Resilience Presented at: The Pinnacle Conference, Hosted by Fitch and Associates, July 20, 2016, San Antonio, Texas.
The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.