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Take a Deeper Look at CentraCare’s Suicide Prevention Screenings

Published in Behavioral Health Services, Mental Health, For the Health of It, Suicide Prevention Author: Jennifer Burris APRN, CNS, CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital Nursing Practice Director, and Lisa Bershok, MSW, LICSW, CentraCare Suicide Prevention Program Manager

Research shows most people who die by suicide have interacted with a medical professional in the year prior to their death, with 64 percent being seen in a health care facility the month prior.

Since October 2022, all nine CentraCare hospitals have been dedicated to screening daily for suicide risk using the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS).

C-SSRS is an approach to suicide prevention that screens all patients ages 10 and older who are admitted to our emergency departments and medical inpatient units — who may not have any known risk.

Patients are screened daily throughout their hospital stay because research has found there can be a progressive change in suicidal thinking.

This approach represents our dedication to patient safety — the most fundamental responsibility of health care.

The screening only takes a few minutes and starts with a nurse asking patients a series of questions in plain language which include the following:

  • Whether and when they have thought about suicide
  • What actions they have taken — and when — to prepare for suicide
  • Whether and when they attempted suicide or began a suicide attempt that was either interrupted by another person or stopped of their own volition

After the conversation, the nurse will determine the suicide risk.

If a patient is at risk, the nurse will assess the patient’s physical environment and implement interventions to immediately create a safe environment. Additionally, the nurse will work with the provider and care team to come up with a plan. A Behavioral Health provider will meet with the patient to talk more about the situation and review any safety concerns.

The health care team collaborates with the patient, family, and care team to create a care plan for life after discharge.

By asking every patient about suicidal experiences, we can better engage them in early prevention before it becomes a crisis.

September is National Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 to speak with a trained crisis counselor.

Suicidal thinking and mental illness are treatable, and hope is possible. You are not alone.