Suicide Prevention, Assessment, and Intervention

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The Role of a First Responder. Lisa Schwartz. , . LCSW. Suicide Prevention Coordinators. Erie VAMC. 814-860-2038. RISK FACTORS. High . gun . ownership -a major factor (guns are used in approximately 58% of completed suicides).. ID: 509911 Download Presentation

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Suicide Prevention, Assessment, and Intervention

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Suicide Prevention, Assessment, and Intervention The Role of a First Responder

Lisa Schwartz, LCSWSuicide Prevention CoordinatorsErie VAMC814-860-2038





ownership -a major factor (guns are used in approximately 58% of completed suicides).



Mental health issues

Veterans have >2x greater risk & account for 1 in 5 suicides in the US.


The ultimate aim of suicide prevention is to reduce deaths by suicide; however, it is equally important to reduce the frequency and severity of suicide attempts.


First Responders

Police officers, firefighters and other first line responders are increasingly called upon in situations involving mental health emergencies, such as suicidal crises.

First responders are in a unique position to determine the course and outcome of suicidal crises.

They are often the first to be involved in situations where suicidal behaviors, such as a suicide threat, suicide attempt or completed suicide, have occurred.


Suicide by deadly force

One of the most difficult crisis situations for police to address occurs when an individual engages in life-threatening behavior to provoke officers to fire, either to protect themselves or a civilian bystander. This has been termed

"police-assisted suicide"


"suicide by cop”.



People who feel suicidal often express hopelessness and depression. They see suicide as the only way to solve their problems and eliminate their suffering.

Although suicide is difficult to predict, a large proportion of those who eventually kill themselves will give warning signs of their suicidal intentions in the weeks or months prior to their death.

These are not harmless bids for attention, but important cries for help that should be taken seriously.


Warning signs include both behavioral and verbal clues:


Withdrawn from family/friends

Anger, rage

Giving away possessions

History of suicide attempts

Drug and/or alcohol abuse

A change in health


Warning signs continued…..

Constantly dwelling on problems for which there seem to be no solutions;

Expressing a lack of support or belief in the system;

Giving some other indication of a suicide plan.


Assessing the risk

Engage the individual.

Encourage the person to talk.

Most suicidal people are ambivalent about dying.

Asking someone if they are suicidal will not “tip them over the edge”, but will provide a sense of relief and a starting point for a solution.

To assess intent, ask if the individual has a plan, access to lethal means, or has decided when to act.



Never leave a potentially suicidal individual alone based on their promise to visit their mental health worker or the hospital.

Ensure that family members or significant others are on the scene and accept responsibility for help seeking.


Veterans Crisis Line

National Number: 1-800-273-8255Press #1 for Veteran or family of Veteran Crisis Line is available 24/7 and staffed by VA mental health professionalsIn an emergency, Crisis Line staff will assist with immediate referral to community resources including:Local Police DepartmentsCounty Crisis ServicesIf non-emergent, the Veteran will be referred to the closest VA within 24hrs.






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