REFER FOR TREATMENT A POTENTIALLY SUICIDAL PATIENT
a. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States and the third
leading cause of death for adolescents and adults under thirty. Additionally, the suicide
rate for this group is increasing. Suicide attempts typically occur when close emotionally
attachments are endangered or when a significant individual in the patient's life has been
lost. The suicidal patient often has feelings of being unable to manage his own life, a
sense of worthlessness, and a lack of self-esteem. Each suicidal act or gesture must be
taken seriously and the patient referred to trained medical personnel for appropriate
b. Seventy-five percent of potential suicides visit a medical facility within six
months prior to their death. Timely awareness of pre-suicidal signs and symptoms can
lead to correct intervention and prevention. The suicide rate among soldiers during
wartime tends to decrease. Aggressive drives are often channeled toward the enemy.
Nonetheless, some deaths due to inappropriate behavior during combat may, in reality,
be suicides. It is possible that you, the medical specialist, may be involved directly with
persons who are potentially suicidal.
TERMS COMMONLY USED IN RELATION TO A POTENTIAL SUICIDAL
a. Behavior Signs. Behavior signs are actions or behaviors that a person takes,
such as spending more money than usual or increasing alcohol consumption. These
signs may also give some indication of the person's thinking.
b. Crisis. Crisis is the point at which customary problem-solving or decision-
making methods are no longer adequate. At this turning point, a person may choose
suicide as a way to solve the problem.
c. Depression. Depression refers to feelings (moods) of sadness, despair, and
discouragement, and (as such) may be a normal state. Depression that may be
disruptive to the soldier is commonly manifested in decreased thinking processes or
purposeful physical activity, guilt, self-condemnation, hopelessness, and disorders of
eating and sleeping.
d. Intervention. Intervention is treatment by health care personnel when there is
some question of the individual's ability to cope with his own resources and requires
assistance. This action is also known as "crisis intervention" when the individual shows
signs of reaching a crisis point.