Your ability to competently identify and manage suicide risk is critical to your system and its stakeholders. No longer is it sufficient to implement standards of care that do not fully reflect current best practices in suicide risk identification, assessment, management, treatment and referral. The consequences can be life or death. So it’s vital that staff working with vulnerable individuals have been appropriately trained, and have requisite skills to mitigate risk for all.
A groundbreaking 2012 task force report revealed serious gaps in U.S. mental health training and competence. This report revealed that training in assessment and management of suicidal patients is “woefully inadequate,” despite the fact that mental health professionals regularly encounter patients who are suicidal. This report’s findings are echoed by numerous other calls from national and international public, private and governmental organizations to improve training in the assessment and management of suicide risk; these organizations include the:
- IOM (Institute of Medicine), 2002
- Joint Commission, 2010
- USDDH (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services), 2001
- USPHS (U.S. Public Health Service), 1999
- WHO (World Health Organization), 1996
States and systems are beginning to respond to workforce skills deficits by mandating enhanced training for professionals responsible for at-risk individuals. Your system or state may be among these. While skills training is vital, so too are management changes that support this training. These include consistent, top-down policies and procedures to optimize service delivery for people with suicidal risk. When these management changes are combined with enhanced skills among your workforce in a comprehensive quality-care model, lives can be saved.
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