Assessing Suicide Risk During COVID-19


The Mental Health First Aid Action Plan is called ALGEE. Each letter is an important step in the prevention of a mental health emergency. They stand for: Assess for risk of suicide or harm/Listen nonjudgmentally/Give reassurance and information/Encourage appropriate professional help/Encourage self-help and other support strategies. This blog post is dedicated to the A: Assessing for risk of suicide or harm. During the #Coronavirus pandemic people around the world are at higher risk for suicide and self harm.


When assessing someone for suicide or self harm it's a simple conversation. It's best to have these conversations with people you already know. This makes the conversation genuine because the other person already knows you and feels comfortable being vulnerable with you. When I do talk to people that I do not know I let them lead the conversation. The A stands for assessment, and I cannot properly assess someone for a mental health emergency by dominating the conversation.


What I am hearing from people who are worried about losing their jobs is "I'm going to lose everything, I'm better off dead". I have talked to many people who have purchase guns during the #Coronavirus pandemic. The website ammo.com stated that saw a 276 percent sales surge on March 10, the day the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. reached more than 1,000. I am very fearful when I hear someone who already suffers from mental illness say they have weapons in the home.


Part of my assessment includes the seriousness of the talk about suicide. There is a difference in someone saying "I wish I was dead" opposed to "I bought a gun and I'm going to kill myself". Actions speak way louder than words and when I hear someone lay out a plan to commit suicide I don't need to move on to the other steps in the Mental Health Action Plan. At that point I call professional help to assist whoever I am talking to.


Assessing a potential health emergency does require you to ask questions at certain points during the conversation. You can easily tell if someone is abusing substances or alcohol by having a conversation. Due to the free time some people have, they are drinking more. Some stores have closed completely, others have cut hours, but the liquor are open for business during their normal business hours. For someone who has a history of suicide attempts alcohol isn't the a way to pass the time.


I don't use any type of scale to assess someone for suicide. I am certified in Mental Health First Aid, but I am not a clinical psychologist. My job isn't to tell people that they are suicidal and need to go to a mental institution. However, it is my job to prevent suicide or self harm to the best of my ability. I use a combination of my own mental health battles along with the training from the Mental Health First Aid class. As a veteran who has battled with mental health it is easier for me to assess someone else who may be experiencing a mental health emergency.


The assessment may be as short as 10 minutes, or as long as 3 hours. Some people may start the conversation with someone saying they want to commit suicide immediately. Other individuals will come out and say their true feelings after an hour. A #mentalhealth assessment takes time with this program. What is great about assessment is you have the opportunity to speak with someone to understand what #mentalhealth battles they are struggling with.


 

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