Tatiana Sarkhosh, MPH
WCAAP Program Manager
Pandemic-related stress exacerbated the mental health crisis for children and adolescents. With continued social isolation, uncertainty around the return to in-person schooling, and social and economic stressors, adolescents’ mental health will need to be monitored and suicide risk will need to be assessed. The prevalence of adolescents who have screened positive for suicide increased by 16% between June and December 2020 (Mayne et al., 2021).
Systematic screening for suicide risk in pediatric primary care is essential to identify adolescents in need and respond in a timely manner. Due to the limited inpatient psychiatric beds available across the state, the limited mental health provider workforce, and pandemic-related restrictions, primary care providers should be prepared to manage suicidal patients until inpatient care is available.
WCAAP members Emily Bianconi, ARNP (Skagit Pediatrics) and Leslie Graham, MSW, LICSW (UW Neighborhood Clinic at Kent-Des Moines) developed a toolkit to (1) support the development of a process for managing a suicidal patient in primary care practices, (2) offer a foundation from which practices can adapt and refine their workflow for responding to suicidal patients, and (3) provide resources and strategies for how pediatric primary care providers can support suicidal adolescents as they wait for mental health care.
On Thursday, November 4th, 21 participants joined Emily Bianconi and Leslie Graham to review the toolkit and discuss recent experiences caring for adolescents with self-harm or suicidality. The toolkit sections include safety protocol, monitoring and follow-up, medication, billing, care coordination, coping strategies for providers, and relevant resources.
All staff who care for suicidal patients can benefit from reviewing the workflow, resources, and tools and discussing the process as a team. The toolkit is designed to be a foundation for pediatric primary care teams to use and adapt as they develop their own processes and resources.