Survey kicks off new pediatric suicide prevention initiative

Approximately a 4-minute read

Key takeaways:

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children and adolescents.
  • A new initiative at Mott is empowering care teams to support young patients struggling with suicide risk and helping to save their lives.
  • All Michigan Medicine team members are invited to take a survey that will help shape this initiative and allow you to become a Zero Suicide champion!

How many suicides are acceptable? At Michigan Medicine, none. 

Meet Michael. Michael works in Children’s Emergency Services (CES). One evening, he starts his usual shift checking in patients, and he sees a familiar face. Maria, a fourteen-year-old with Crohn’s Disease, is checking in for the second time in recent weeks because of a significant flare up of her illness. While it’s not unusual for patients with Crohn’s Disease to have multiple flares, Michael can sense that something is different about Maria. She is more withdrawn than the last time she was here, and she rarely makes eye contact with him, letting her mother answer his questions. It might mean nothing, but Michael makes a note of the interaction for the care team anyway.

When the nurse sees Maria to complete a universal suicide risk screening, she notices Michael’s note from check-in. She also reads in the chart that Maria was recently prescribed an antidepressant by her primary care doctor. During the screening, the nurse asks Maria how she’s been feeling, opening up space for her to discuss what’s happening in her life. Maria shares that she’s being bullied at school, her grades are falling and she’s started thinking about suicide.

Even though Maria came to the Emergency Department for her Crohn’s Disease flare, Michael’s observation and the nurse’s close listening gave the care team the initial information needed to connect Maria with the psychiatry team.

Because of this interprofessional team’s awareness and exploration of suicide risk, Maria and her family got the help they needed.

This is just one example of how a new initiative at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is empowering care teams to support young patients struggling with suicide risk and helping to save their lives.

Preventing suicide

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children and adolescents, and the number of young people visiting emergency services departments for self-harm and suicide is on the rise. Fortunately, unlike many other illnesses, suicide is preventable.

Through a grant via the Cardinal Health Foundation, made in partnership with the Children’s Hospital Association and the Zero Suicide Institute, Mott will take a comprehensive approach to identifying and managing pediatric suicide risk, led by experts in youth suicide prevention. Improved care delivery and training around suicide prevention and risk management will be made available to staff, with efforts tailored to meet the unique needs of the youth and families at Mott.

“Mott will work in close partnership with leadership in CES, as well as partners throughout ambulatory, emergency and inpatient pediatric and psychiatric services to holistically address suicide prevention and risk mitigation for our youth,” said Nasuh Malas, M.D., director of Pediatric Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry at Mott. ”This new approach will improve the care and safety of our patients, making our organization a safer and more fulfilling place to work.”

We need YOU to make this initiative a success 

“Suicide prevention is a collective responsibility of all care team members who care for youth,” added Malas. No matter their role, everyone has a part to play in making Michigan Medicine suicide safer.

Get involved today by completing this online survey to share your current knowledge, practices and confidence in providing suicide prevention strategies as they pertain to your role.

The survey is anonymous and open to all of Michigan Medicine. There are no right or wrong answers and your contributions will directly help save lives with this new initiative. Additionally, those who complete the survey can enter a drawing to win one of four $50 gift cards.

Preventing suicide is also as simple as paying attention to the people around you. Share a kind word with patients and colleagues. Check in to see how they are doing. And, like Michael, if you’re ever worried about someone’s well-being, don’t be afraid to say something.

You too can be a champion for suicide prevention and help make Michigan Medicine a Zero Suicide organization.

Note: This story contains a composite example of patient and staff experiences in this initiative. Names have been changed to protect privacy.