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Sentinel Event Alert, Issue 46: A follow-up report on preventing suicide: Focus on medical/surgical units and the emergency department

November 17, 2010
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Sentinel Event Alert - SuicideIn 1998, The Joint Commission issued a Sentinel Event Alert on preventing inpatient suicides; this Alert updates the prevention strategies presented in that Alert with a focus on general hospitals and prevention of suicide in medical/surgical units and the emergency department. The goal of this Alert is to assure that patients outside of psychiatric units are appropriately screened and cared for. In addition to non-psychiatric settings, the Sentinel Event Database includes reports of suicide in psychiatric hospitals, behavioral health units of general hospitals, and residential treatment facilities. While psychiatric settings are designed to be safe for suicidal individuals and have staff with specialized training, typically, medical/surgical units and emergency departments are not designed or assessed for suicide risk and do not have staff with specialized training to deal with suicidal individuals. Not surprisingly, suicidal individuals often are admitted to general hospitals immediately following suicide attempts, or they seek help in hospital emergency departments – often at the urging of families or friends – when they are most desperate.These patients are "known at risk" for suicide.

 
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