"It's actually the only suicide training that's evidence-based," Shannonhouse noted. "It's worth its weight in gold. If you're a nurse, it takes all the fear out of talking about suicide."
Patients are actually at increased risk for suicide when they leave the hospital, so follow-up care is also needed to help buffer this risk. And that foolow-up needs to be meaningful and go beyond a "just checking in" type of call.
The following tips from AmericanNurseToday, NursingCenter and Nursing2019 can also assist nurses in preventing suicides:
Recognize that talking helps and won't increase the likelihood of suicide
It's often believed that talking about suicide will increase its likelihood, but this isn't true. Talking helps nurses identify patients who are considering suicide while helping them reflect on their thoughts and take in new information that can help them think about things in a different way.
» RELATED: What is suicide contagion and what can be done to prevent it?
Be aware of risk factors
Nurses should assess patient histories and note risk factors for suicide. These can include substance abuse, grief, isolation or being the victim of violence or abuse.
Build a collaborative relationship
Trust is the key to effective communication, which in turn can lead to effective care.
When in doubt, refer for a more extensive evaluation
If a patient has had suicidal thoughts, particularly if they involve specific means or plans, they should receive a more extensive evaluation from a mental health services provider. Nurses should err on the side of caution and refer the patient for additional help even if they're not sure it's necessary.
Help create a safety plan
Work with the patient and colleagues to devise a safety plan to help him or her handle anxiety and negative thoughts.
Take preventative steps
A patient who has formulated a plan to end his or her life should never be left alone in the hospital. Mental health staff should be notified and the patient should be under continuous one-on-one supervision. Nurses should stress that the supervision isn't punitive but is instead for the patient's safety.
If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, call or text the 24-hour hotline at 800-273-8255. For more information, go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.