Life-Saving Post-ER Suicide Prevention Strategies Are Cost Effective
Three interventions designed for follow up of patients who are identified with suicide risk in hospital emergency departments save lives and are cost effective relative to usual care. A study led by researchers at NIMH modeled the use of the approaches in emergency departments and found that all three interventions compare favorably with a standard benchmark of cost-effectiveness used in evaluating health care costs.
One intervention, sending caring postcards or letters following an emergency visit, is more effective and less expensive than usual care. The report appeared in the Sept. 15 issue of the journal Psychiatric Services.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States; 44,193 people died by suicide in the U.S. in 2015 (the most recent year for which statistics are available). One approach to reducing the suicide rate is to direct prevention strategies at high-risk groups or settings. An example is emergency departments, which according to the CDC, treat more than 500,000 people each year for self-harm injuries.
“In the face of a gradually rising suicide rate, the need for effective prevention strategies is urgent,” said NIMH director Dr. Joshua Gordon. “These findings of cost-effectiveness add to the impetus for implementing these life-saving approaches. Importantly, they also make a strong case for expanding screening, which would allow us to reach many more of those at risk with life-saving interventions.”