3 cost-effective post-ER suicide prevention strategies that save lives

Researchers with the National Institute of Mental Health identified three suicide prevention strategies that reduce the risk of post-discharge suicide among patients admitted to the emergency department and are cost-effective in relation to usual care, according to a study published in Psychiatric Services.

For the study, NIMH researchers used software to conduct thousands of simulations of chains of events that could occur after alternative ED-based suicide prevention interventions over a year.

The three interventions were:

  • Mailing follow-up postcards to patients at-risk for suicide every month for the first four months and then every other month for the remainder of the year.
  • Calling patients to offer support and encourage engagement in follow-up treatment.
  • Connecting patients to suicide-focused cognitive behavioral therapy programs.

While these interventions have reduced patients' suicide risk by 30 percent to 50 percent in multiple studies, they are not widely adopted by hospitals.

To assess the cost-effectiveness of these strategies, researchers compared the cost incurred by these interventions against years of life gained. Researchers set the dollar amount at $50,000 per additional year of life gained as the price society would be willing to pay for the benefit accrued by a healthcare procedure. Based on this model, all the interventions were cost-effective.

"In the face of a gradually rising suicide rate, the need for effective prevention strategies is urgent," said NIMH Director Joshua Gordon, MD, PhD. "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."

More articles on population health: 
Among teens, e-cigarette use doubles likelihood of tobacco cigarette smoking 
The importance of preventive care strategies in a changing healthcare environment 
Google to limit addiction treatment ads

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