Dr. Kimberly Yonkers discusses conditions that increase a patient's risk for suicide as well as what steps clinicians can take to improve care for at-risk patients.
Kimberly Yonkers, MD, professor of psychology, of epidemiology and of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences; Director, Division of Psychological Medicine; Director, Center for Wellbeing of Women and Mothers, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.
I talked a little bit about how clinicians can talk to patients and ask them about depressive symptoms as well as thoughts about self-harm or thoughts about suicide, and I also presented a model which tries to sort of incorporate some of the risk factors that we know are related to suicide, such as genetics, as well as psychiatric illness, and having the means by which somebody could complete a suicide attempt.
Well, I think the first and most important thing is to transmit to patients that you are concerned about their health and that you want to help them. And then, if somebody discloses that they have difficulty with something like depression or a severe anxiety disorder – so, for example, PTSD, which is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – are they in treatment, are they benefitting from treatment? And if they’re symptomatic, whether they’re in treatment or not, that relationship can go a long way to really understanding if somebody is at risk for thoughts of self-harm, and it can also go a long way in terms of referring them to a mental health provider who can then take the next step and help patients care for themselves.