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National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month: Safer Suicide Care

September 11, 2023
Person holding out yellow ribbon is affixed to their sweater.

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, a good reminder of the importance of keeping a spotlight on suicide prevention throughout the year.

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, suicide deaths increased about 5 percent in the United States in 2021.

Suicide is also the third leading cause of death for 10- to 24-year-old Americans. In the United States, someone dies by suicide every 11 minutes; globally, this increases to one suicide every 40 seconds. In the past 20 years, suicide deaths have increased more than 32%.

These figures underscore the urgent need for mental health interventions and prevention services. MUSC Health has many programs and services to help support patients’ mental health.

Zero Suicide Initiative

MUSC’s commitment to suicide prevention and education includes its participation in the nationwide Zero Suicide Initiative, a quality improvement model created to help transform system-wide suicide prevention and care. The initiative provides a practical framework for system-wide transformation toward safer suicide care, helping to save lives and protect patients and care team members.

The Zero Suicide initiative is a response to the fact that people experiencing suicidal thoughts often fall through the cracks in a large health care system. Studies have shown that 50 percent of people who died by suicide saw a health care provider in the month before their deaths; 30 percent saw a mental health professional in the month before. This highlights the opportunity that health and behavioral health systems have to provide safer suicide care – to make a real difference by transforming how patients are screened for suicide.

As part of the Zero Suicide effort, at MUSC all patients with suicide risk, regardless of setting, receive evidence-based treatment to address suicidal thoughts and behaviors directly, in addition to treatment for other mental health issues. At-risk patients are treated in the least restrictive setting possible.

MUSC Mental Health Programs

MUSC has a variety of mental health programs to help support and treat children and adults experiencing depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. These programs are designed to help patients prevent suicidal thoughts and to care for them when they are having them. Our mental health services expand the continuum of care and include both outpatient and inpatient services, with specialty services such as eating disorders and brain stimulation.

At MUSC, we are committed to partnering with our care staff and patients for our goal of Zero Suicide. To learn more, call 843-792-9888 or visit MUSC Health Institute of Psychiatry.

Childers, CD. 2020 Suicide Death Data Report. (January 2022). SCDMH Office of Suicide Prevention, Zero Suicide Initiative.

About the Author

Shayna Todd
Senior Ambulatory Operations Manager
MUSC Psychiatric Outpatient Services