Programs

Suicide Safer Care: Suicide Prevention in Primary Care

Primary care clinicians are confronting increasing concerns for patients that may be at heightened risk for suicide. Suicide is a growing public health crisis and the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. In 2018 alone, more than 48,000 individuals in the U.S. died by suicide—accounting for one death every 11 minutes. Despite efforts to lower this suicide rate, it increased 35% from 1999-2018, becoming the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10-34. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened this crisis.

Contrary to popular belief, less than half of deaths by suicide stem from mental illness or depression. Rather, deaths by suicide stem from a variety of factors such as relationship issues, life crises, substance use disorder, or illnesses. The link between suicide and these social determinants of health—and the fact that 45% of individuals who die by suicide visited their provider in the month before their death—suggests that primary care providers are in a position to identify patients at risk of suicide and intervene during primary care visits.

Using the Zero Suicide framework as a foundation and with the generous support of the Centene Corporation, ACU created the Suicide Safer Care curriculum to train primary care providers and their teams on skills for suicide risk assessment, evidence-based interventions, referral and transition when needed, and changing the culture of addressing suicide risk across clinical practice. In 2020, ACU’s Suicide Safer Care initiative delivered 35 trainings to 1,704 participants in 16 states in 2020 to help address the public health crisis of suicide, and responses from participating providers demonstrated tremendous gains in knowledge and level of comfort in assessing and caring for patients at risk of suicide after completing the training.

2020 Suicide Safer Care Outcomes and Findings

Suicide Safer Care 2020 Yearend ReportRead our 2020 Yearend Report and press release to learn more about the achievements and findings of the third year in the largest effort in history to train primary care providers in suicide prevention—the Suicide Safer Care (SSC) program. Made possible by the support of the Centene Corporation and collaboration from Concert Health, ACU’s Suicide Safer Care initiative delivered 35 trainings to 1,704 participants in 16 states in 2020 to help address the public health crisis of suicide. Learn more.

Suicide Prevention in Primary Care: A Toolkit for Primary Care Clinicians and Leaders

The Suicide Prevention in Primary Care toolkit provides guidance on the four core components of how health care professionals can help identify and prevent suicide in patients, create cultures of practice that find suicide unacceptable and set ambitious goals to prevent suicide, and employ evidence-based clinical practices that standardize risk stratification, evidence-based interventions, and patient engagement approaches. Read the guide to learn best practices for:

  • screening and identifying and assessing patients at risk for suicide,
  • restricting access to lethal means and safety planning,
  • and caring for patients at risk of suicide.

Read the guide.

Suicide Prevention Webinars

Suicide Prevention in Primary Care WebinarSuicide Safer Care for Primary Care Providers and Their Teams

This webinar with ACU, Dr. Virna Little, and Dr. Ursula Whiteside offers information on providing primary care to patients at risk for suicide, identifying patients in your practice as well as information on “language matters.” Providers and their teams can learn some “micro interventions” to use during a primary care visit, risk assessments and safety planning.

View the archived webinar and presentation slides.

Identifying and Caring for Patients at Risk for Suicide during the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 is exacerbating risk factors for suicide, which is being reflected in significant increases in calls to local and national suicide hotlines. Many patients who die by suicide visited their primary care provider within the month of their death, and most were not connected to mental health treatment. As such, primary care providers and their teams are in a unique and critical position to identify and care for patients at risk for suicide.

This training provides concrete steps for primary care providers to identify and care for patients at risk for suicide. Providers will learn how, during the course of any primary care visit (including telephonic visits), to provide suicide safer care and gain a greater understanding of suicide and risk. Join this informative webinar, and a community of over 1500 primary care providers and their teams who have been trained to date, to gain practice tips and knowledge on how to provide evidence-based primary care treatment to patients at risk for suicide.

View the archived webinar (password: mMJSxmq2) and presentation slides.

Caring for the Healers: Preventing Suicide Among Providers

Physicians and other providers are particularly vulnerable to negative mental health effects and increased suicide risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, likely due to balancing the duty of caring for their patients and the concern for their own health and wellbeing and that of their friends and family. This training provides specific Suicide Safer Care techniques to help support your primary care providers and team members through systematic and organizational approaches to address suicide risk and prevent deaths by suicide among employees. Learn how to create a response plan that can be applied during the COVID-19 pandemic to help your organization help reduce the risk for suicide across your providers and team members.

View the archived webinar (password: cJXmyxq4) and presentation slides.

Request a Training or More Information About Suicide Safer Care

To request an organizational training or a printed copy of the Suicide Prevention in Primary Care Toolkit and for general inquiries regarding the SSC program, please contact Rick Brown, Manager, Programs, Membership, and Communications.

Click for Additional Resources on Routine Screenings and Assessment in Primary Care and the Care Management and Referral Process