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IU Health Network receives $1 million grant to curb suicide rate

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – One person dies of suicide every eight hours in Indiana, according to IU Health System.

The network is rolling out a $1 million initiative to curb the suicide rate called The Zero Suicide Initiative.

IU Health received a grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to implement the Zero Suicide Initiative.

Zero Suicide Initiative has been implemented at all 15 emergency departments within the network.

This allows not only behavioral health experts but emergency departments and primary care doctors to screen for suicidal risk.

Vice President of IU Health Behavioral Virtual Health Hub Dr. Anne Gilbert told News 8 the suicide rate has increased by 35% since 2001.

“It is the number one cause of death in 18-25-year-olds and the second-highest cause of death in children from 10-18,” added Dr. Gilbert.

Healthcare professionals will use evidence-based models with a high success rate of minimizing suicidal thoughts. The screening consists of a series of questions.

Dr. Gilbert said, “For an example, ‘are there times that you wish you wouldn’t wake up in the morning?’ The second question that goes on from that is ‘have you wished you were dead?’ Then it goes on from ‘have you actually thought about ending your own life? Have you made plans to end your life? Have you tried to end your life in the past?’”  

The Zero Suicide Initiative also includes enhanced support services for people who screen high for suicide. ‘CARING CONTACTS’ is a text-messaging service that provides discharged patients with encouraging messages and follow-up communication.

Therapists and ER doctors will also collaborate on a safety plan for discharged patients if suicidal thoughts reappear by providing therapy sessions until patients are able to access long-term outpatient behavioral health services.

“Everyone in the healthcare system needs to be educated about suicide, how to screen for it, what to do if you identify it and how to sort of judge if a person needs immediate care or if we can assist them getting into gradual care,” Dr. Gilbert said.

The Zero Suicide Initiative will be a phased-in approach as there will be training, new technology and therapists. Also, ways to educate people beyond the healthcare system.

Behavioral Virtual Health Hub Vice President mentioned educating the public on how to identify people that might be thinking of suicide and how to get them into treatment can save more live than CPR.

This is the fourth story in a series we’re calling “INside Story.” The rest of Aleah’s stories looking into access to mental health care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those stories will air each morning this week on News 8.