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January 11, 2023

Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems Behavioral Health Team Trained on Suicide Risk Prevention

Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems (SVCHS) Behavioral Health team was trained on suicide attempt risk prevention as the number of suicides within the United States increase year over year.

Suicide attempts and deaths are devastating for all involved.  The National Institute of Mental Health has the following grim statistics that demonstrate the seriousness of the problem:

• Suicide is the second leading cause of death in children ages 10-14.

• The third leading cause of death for children and young adults 15-24.

• And the fourth leading cause of death for adults ages 35-44.

• In 2020, there were twice as many suicides in the U.S. than homicides.

• Up to 45% of people who died by suicide visited their primary care provider a month prior to their death.

If almost half of the people who die by suicide saw their primary care provider (PCP) in the month prior, then it is clear that the primary care office is a key setting for suicide prevention.  SVCHS has four primary care clinics in Southwest Virginia in Saltville, Meadowview, Bristol, and Tazewell where all patient are screened at least yearly for suicide risk and patients at higher risk are then offered Behavioral Health services. 

“We see ourselves on the front lines of suicidality, self-harm, and mental health crisis prevention,” said Director of Behavioral Health, Marcy Rosenbaum, LCSW.  “By integrating our behavioral health services into the primary care setting, we are often able to identify risk factors before a crisis occurs.” 

SVCHS provides all patients with access to behavioral health care management, outpatient therapy, psychiatric consultation, and substance abuse treatment including medication assisted treatment at three New Day Recovery sites. 

Depression is one of the highest risk times for suicide and co-occurring medical conditions such as sleep disturbances, eating disorders, chronic pain, or heart disease can increase potential for suicide.  Medical and Behavioral Health Providers work together at SVCHS to identify these high risk patients and treat them with the dignity and respect deserved by any person with an illness.  Part of the mission  of SVCHS is to increase access to health services.  With the support of a grant from the Virginia Healthcare Foundation (VHCF), SVCHS has a telehealth only counselor who provides counseling through phone, computer, tablet, or IPAD.  Richard Bare, Social Work Supervisee, is available to patients from all four of our primary care clinics. 

Rosenbaum said “Suicide can usually be prevented with proper identification and treatment.  At SVCHS, all our Behavioral Heath staff are trained in suicide screening, assessment, safety planning, and referral to appropriate treatment.”   

For more information or to schedule an appointment at any Southwest Virginia Community Health System service site, call 276-496-4492.