Management of Suicide

Medical professionals take any suicidal act seriously, regardless of whether the individual actually intended to commit suicide or not.

If individuals seriously injure themselves, medical professionals evaluate and treat the injury and typically admit the individual to the hospital.

If individuals have taken an overdose of a potentially lethal drug, medical professionals immediately take steps to prevent absorption of the drug and speed its elimination from the body.

Individuals are also given any available antidote and provided with supportive care, such as a breathing tube.

After the initial evaluation, individuals who have attempted suicide are referred to a psychiatrist, who tries to identify problems that contributed to the attempt and plan appropriate treatment.

To identify problems, psychiatrists do the following:

  • Listen to what the individuals has to say.
  • Try to understand what made the individual attempt suicide, what led up to the attempt, and where and how it occurred.
  • Ask about symptoms of mental disorders that increase the risk of suicidal behaviour.
  • Ask whether the individual is being treated for a mental disorder, including whether the person is taking any drugs to treat it.
  • Evaluate the individual’s mental state, looking for signs of depression, anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, severe insomnia, other mental disorders, and alcohol or substance use and abuse.
  • Ask about personal and family relationships as well as social networks, because they are often relevant to the suicide attempt and the follow-up treatment.
  • Talk to close family members and friends, and ask them about the individual’s use of alcohol, marijuana, pain relievers, and drugs of abuse.
  • Help the individual identify things that trigger thoughts of suicide and help the individual plan ways to deal with the triggers.

Because depression increases the risk of suicidal behaviour, medical professionals carefully monitor individuals with depression for suicidal behaviour and thoughts.

Some evidence suggests that using lithium, antidepressants, and anti-psychotics to treat mood disorders in individuals who are at risk of suicide may reduce the number of completed suicides.

Treating schizophrenia with clozapine reduces the risk of suicide.

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