Implementing a Safety Plan and Using Follow-up Postcards to Mitigate Suicide Risk in Patients in the Emergency Department
Suicide has become a national concern due to the increasing rates across the country. The 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention aims to improve the area of clinical prevention. Emergency departments (ED) play a key role in addressing this effort as they have multiple opportunities to connect with patients who are at risk. There exists a high-risk period of time immediately following a patient’s discharge from emergency care. To address this period of concern, a review of the literature was conducted on the effectiveness of follow-up contacts as a means to prevent suicide and suicide related attempts in this at-risk population.
Based on this review, a follow-up intervention was proposed to increase patients’ social support and knowledge on suicide prevention through a safety plan and the use of caring postcards. The aim was to evaluate the degree to which implementation of a safety plan and follow-up using postcards reduces suicide risk in the ED. ED suicide prevention practices such as safety planning and caring contacts with postcards have shown to be feasible and cost-effective methods to reduce patients’ risk of suicide as they provide education and address the high-risk period of time after discharge.
Using a quasi-experimental pre and post-test design, English speaking adults 18 years of age and older, admitted to an ED in the Phoenix Metropolitan area with suicidal ideation, were voluntarily recruited for two weeks. The self-rated Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire-Revised (SBQ-R) was used as a baseline assessment along with the introduction of a safety plan. Participants were then followed with the receipt of postcards with caring messages over a two-week period, and a final SBQ-R. The SBQ-R has shown beneficial reliability and validity measuring suicidality in the adult population. Data from the pre-SBQ-R was analyzed using descriptive statistics as no post-SBQ-Rs were received. Outcomes for this project included a reduction in suicidal ideation and suicide risk.
This project provides insight into the implementation of a safety plan and follow-up intervention in the ED and their attempts to reduce acute suicide risk as well as highlight the value that post-ED support provides.
Keywords: suicide, prevention, safety plan, caring messages, postcards, emergency department, follow-up, contacts, brief intervention