While Physicians and other health care workers may not be able to predict which of their patients will attempt suicide, they can implement preventive strategies that markedly lower the risk of such tragedies. Now, one pioneering program has demonstrated the importance of pursuing 2 key approaches at once: carefully assessing patients for risk of suicide and adopting measures to reduce the likelihood that a patient will attempt suicide.
The example comes from a quality improvement initiative that succeeded in substantially bringing down the rate of suicide in a population of about 200 000 members of a large health maintenance organization (HMO). Through the second quarter of last year, the Perfect Depression Care program of the Behavioral Health Services (BHS) division of the Henry Ford Health System resulted in 9 consecutive quarters without any suicides, a dramatic contrast to the annual rate of 89 suicides per 100 000 members at baseline and approximately 230 suicides per 100 000 individuals expected in a patient population. The work has won several awards, including the Joint Commission’s Earnest Amory Codman Award and the Gold Achievement Award from the American Psychiatric Association.
“I believe we have a model that is applicable to most health care settings and that could dramatically improve the care of patients with depression and other major mental disorders that raise the risk of suicide,” said neuropsychiatrist C. Edward Coffey, MD, Henry Ford Health System vice president and CEO of BHS, a large integrated mental health and substance abuse system that includes 2 inpatient hospitals and 10 clinics serving southeastern Michigan and adjacent states.