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Making the Invisible Visible During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
By Kim Ho, Director of Sales
“Invisible illnesses” are what countless Americans suffer in silence. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, the ones that do not exhibit visible signs or symptoms are among the unseen, silent suppressors that impact millions of Americans. 47 million in fact, according to Mental Health America, currently live with an “invisible illness” with silent suffering a barrier to prevention.
During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we wanted to shed light on issues impacting our parents, our significant others, our friends, our colleagues, and our neighbors with a particular focus on one of the leading causes of death in the United States: suicide. In 2021, Mental Health America estimates that over 10.7 million adults experience serious suicidal thoughts – an increase of nearly half a million people from 2020.
At evolvedMD, we are doing our part to bring awareness to not only the prevalence of mental illness but to reduce stigma and increase access to behavioral health services to ultimately foster a collaborative approach to prevention.
Suicide Is Preventable, But How Do We Stop It?
Suicide Prevention Awareness Month aims to tackle these three needs to make the invisible more visible throughout the month of September. That’s not to say that suicide is an illness – it isn’t. It’s a possible consequence of what we’ve been referring to as invisible illnesses. Semantics aside, organizations around the globe have been hard at work addressing this major public health crisis including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, just to name a few.
Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade – high profile, highly successful individuals with everything in the world to live for, are three harrowing examples of how suicide can impact anyone.
I, too, have lost someone near and dear to me to suicide. If you ever had the chance to meet Britta, you would have immediately noticed her soulfully beautiful presence and quiet energy. She was always present with you, uniquely observant and direct in her care, attention, and intention. Many of us had never guessed that beyond her radiant smile and her deep passion for her community she was someone suffering in silence. Her passing earlier this year influenced my decision to join evolvedMD where, alongside wonderfully caring colleagues and changemakers in behavioral health, I get to play a major role in reducing the stigma associated with mental health – and hopefully help prevent others from losing someone they love.
We know that talking saves lives and that courageous conversations can stop suicide. And while simply talking about struggles can be monumentally impactful, often it's difficult to reach out to a loved one (stigma) and if someone does decide to seek professional help, there is a severe lack of mental health providers available. What we’ve found is because of this, primary care becomes the de facto mental health provider with PCPs providing most of the care for mental health diagnoses.
To illustrate just how important PCPs are to prevention, what if I told you that, of those dying by suicide, approximately 45% will have seen their PCP within the month before their death, while only 20% will have seen a mental health professional in that same period? This offers a significant opportunity for primary care clinicians to promptly identify and treat suicidal patients with proper staffing and resources.
The Case for Collaborative Care
evolvedMD has seen firsthand the power of collaboration between the PCP and a behavioral health professional. Collaborative Care (CoCM) has proven that integrating primary care and behavioral health care is effective in not only treating these conditions but also improving access to quality mental health care.
Our work has become increasingly important as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to tighten its grip on daily life and the risk of suicide becomes greater year after year. Since launching in 2017, we now provide upfront and ongoing modern care for over 250 primary care providers across nearly 40 sites in Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. Our increasing nationwide presence enables many people who’ve never had access to a behavioral health specialist to now see one in the same building as their PCP.
This month we’ve built an intentional campaign to not only bring awareness to evolvedMD and collaborative care but to live our values and reduce stigma, normalize behavioral health, and focus on everyone (our people, our providers, our practices, and of course, our patients).
We’re committed to making the invisible visible so that we can get to the root of the problem and help drive positive outcomes for our patients. By collaborating with our amazing partners, we’ve made critical strides to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide and expand access to mental health services for those who desperately need it.
We are thankful for the large health systems, small medical groups, and every primary care provider who has joined our movement to reimagine modern primary care.
During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and beyond, we hold fast to our mission and encourage you to do the same by:
1. Talk to a Loved One – Reach out to someone you think may be struggling with mental illness or suicidal ideation and listen intently. AFSP provides valuable resources for how to talk to someone who may be at risk.
2. Share Awareness – Help raise awareness by sharing resources such as graphics or social media messages that help others recognize the warning signs for suicide and how to get help.
3. Encourage Your Primary Care Provider to Integrate Mental Health – Share with them what increased access to behavioral health services means to you, your family, friends, and community.
For primary care providers:
1. Share Awareness – Share resources such as graphics or social media messages that help others recognize the warning signs for suicide and how to get help.
2. Discuss Mental Health Needs – Who is managing your patient’s behavioral health? Patients are best served when primary care and behavioral health work together.
3. Commit to Integration – Integrate behavioral health services into your practice so you can drive better clinical outcomes, increase patient satisfaction, and ultimately reduce stigma.
Together we can reduce stigma and normalize behavioral health, together we can provide more people access to the care we all desperately need, together we can equip providers with the tools and resources to deliver high quality behavioral health services, and together, we can save lives.
Kim Ho, Director of Sales