When it comes to suicide in the U.S.:

  • Someone dies every 12 minutes – reaching nearly 45,000 deaths each year.
  • 10 percent of individuals present in an emergency department shortly before the act; 25 percent of men and 50 percent of women are seen by a mental health professional.
  • 64 percent of suicide victims see their primary care physician within a month prior – 38 percent within a week.

During this Nurses Week, we are reminded of the impact that nurses have on lives every single day. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine of seeing many patients, but with suicide on the rise, it’s important to reset and take time to focus fully on the individual at every visit.

Whether they know it or not, nurses have a prime position to inspire, innovate and influence the care of individuals when it comes to both physical and mental health. Here’s why:

  • Nurses on average spend more time with patients than they do with doctors.
  • More time with patients gives nurses increased opportunity to interact and observe patients.
  • Patients often feel more comfortable to share information with a nurse than a physician.
  • Patients often fear how doctors might respond to a mental health need.
  • Patients are afraid they will burden already busy doctors.

People are intuitive. A patient looking for reasons to live or die will quickly spot an attitude or demeanor that comes across as insincere. We know you’re tasked with a million different things every day, but don’t lose sight of the reason you became a nurse. Your instinct to provide compassionate care is vital when working with someone who may be suicidal. When you spend time with a patient, you are someone that’s there for them in what can be a pivotal time. As you ask questions, don’t be afraid to broach the subject of suicide. All it takes is one question to help begin to lift the agonizing weight individuals with suicidal thoughts undoubtedly carry.

At the end of the day, many nurses go into the field because of their dedication to helping others live the best lives they can live. As long as that remains at the forefront of practice, they can do just that. For Nursing Week, take time to step back and consider the fact that nurses are on the front line when it comes to preventing suicide and more. The kindness and connection that nurses bring to patients can truly be lifesaving.