When I was a resident in psychiatry at the University of Louisville, I ran across a study that was looking at suicide in the community and the impact mental health interventions may or may not have on the rates of suicide. The study evaluated 100 suicides in Jefferson County taken from the coroner’s office. The cases were reviewed and assessed to see if they had sought out mental health services at any time before their completed suicide. The study showed that only two of the 100 cases had ever sought mental health services ever in the past. This was a remarkable finding considering that we in mental health see patients all the time with thoughts of suicide.

What conclusions can we draw from this study? When we think about suicide, we think we must be careful not to bring it up to someone in fear that talking about it might implant the idea in the patient’s mind. From what we learned in the study, completed suicides were, for the most part, never talked about with a health care professional. Talking with patients about suicide and suicidal thoughts seems to be protective and not suggestive. The study showed us that of the 100 cases reviewed, only two had ever sought mental health services and yet we hear about suicidal thoughts every day. It seems that not talking about suicidal thoughts with patients is more likely to lead to suicide than talking about it.

Over 10 million Americans will have thoughts about suicide every year. We lose over 130 Americans to suicide every day. As we approach the coming of the end of this pandemic, it is important for us to continue to be vigilant about our mental health and continue to focus our attention on suicide and suicide prevention. All suicides are tragic, but seeing it in the news as we have in the past few days does underscore for us the importance in continuing to talk about suicide and suicide prevention.

If you or a loved one need help, UofL Health – Peace Hospital’s Assessment and Referral Center offers no-charge assessments at 502-451-3333 or 800-451-3637.

Or contact the 24-Hour Crisis and Information Center Line at 502-589-4313 or 800-221-0446.

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Stephen Taylor, MD

Dr. Stephen Taylor is chief medical officer at Peace Hospital. Dr. Taylor is a graduate of the University of Louisville School of Medicine and completed his residency in psychiatry in 2007. Dr. Taylor has been board-certified since September 2008 and holds a current license for the state of Kentucky. He has been involved as a gratis faculty at the University of Louisville Department of Psychiatry since 2007 and taught medical students and residents in the proper use and application of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) until 2017. Dr. Taylor was awarded the School of Medicine teaching award for 2011-2012 for contributions to the learning environment and teaching students and received a certificate of excellence in medical student education in May of 2013. He was awarded resident research awards in 2005 and 2007.

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