Author: Domynic Lopez, Pima Community College
Suicidal awareness and the idea of suicide scares people, even just talking about it frightens most. Whether or not there is a mass public fear of suicide, it is still very real and needs attention in order for this issue to be helped. Knowing this fear sits among most people, it becomes hard to not wonder how medical staff are dealing with patients who are suicidal. More specifically medical staff who focuses more on the physical aspect of care, like at most general hospitals. There is a Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Tucson, though, where majority of the patients are US veterans who have seen some kind of combat, traumatizing or not. Because so many of their patients have seen war or similar sights, many of them also have mental disorders like PTSD which eventually may lead to suicide. Dennis Wagner writes in his “Arizona Veteran Suicides a Tragic…” about the rise in the suicide rate among veterans, saying: The rate among male veterans under 30 reportedly is up 44 percent over three years, according to the VA. The rate among women vets increased 11 percent.” This being said it might be safe to say VA hospitals deal with the most suicidal patients, but what do they do to help with this huge problem?
Luckily, the Veterans Affairs hospitals are fairly large hospitals so they always have a psychiatrist, psychologist, pharmacist, and physical therapist working or on call. The issue is these are the only people in their hospital who are required to have training helping those with suicidal tendencies, this means they are the better person to talk someone down, hear someone out, etc. This is a decently small percentage of their staff, meaning if there were something to happen in the moment like a potential suicide it is unlikely that someone trained for that situation will be present. Like most hospitals, the VA also transfers out patients who are unable to be controlled, whose tendencies have become too strong to keep safe in a normal hospital. In most cases these patients are transferred to what they call their ‘Psych Ward.’ During an interview with one of their staff members, Selma Lopez, she mentioned: “more often than not any patient experiencing extreme suicidal tendencies is transferred,” they consider it too much of a risk for their general patients and employees. Once in the psych ward these patients receive around the clock mental and physical care and are always watched to make sure they keep themselves safe.
The VA’s ‘Psych Ward,’ despite the somewhat frightening name, does great work for their patients. The problem is a patient has to have shown that they are suicidal or have acted out in an extreme way in order to even get into the psych ward. Patients undergoing mental issues such as suicidal thoughts don’t always express that side and more often than not never get transferred nor treated properly. The VA does a lot as far as suicide prevention goes, but they can do even more to help keep people in this world around. They could require all employees to go through some basic mental health and suicide prevention training to help with certain scenarios. They can and should also require all patients to go through psychiatric evaluations no matter the reason for the visit. This would allow them to notice a lot more signs of depression or suicidal thoughts for everyone they see. If this organization alone could do all of this more the suicide rates would drop throughout the country.
Lopez, Domynic A, and Selma H Lopez. “Suicidal Tendencies in Patients.” 11 Nov. 2021.
Oz, Mehmet C. “Detecting and Treating Depression.” The Dr. Oz Show, 10 Feb. 2021, http://www.doctoroz.com/article/detecting-and-treating-depression.
Raypole, Crystal. “How to Help a Suicidal Friend: 11 Tips.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 16 Dec. 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/how-to-help-a-suicidal-friend.
Wagner, Dennis. “Arizona Veteran Suicides a Tragic Cost of Broken VA System.” AZ Central, 24 Aug. 2014, https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/investigations/2014/08/24/phoenix-va-system-suicidal-vets/14523545/
“We Can All Prevent Suicide.” Lifeline, 23 Aug. 2021, https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/how-we-can-all-prevent-suicide/