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Suicide prevention: How nurses can make all the difference

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Given the effect of COVID-19 on the population’s m Given the effect of COVID-19 on the population’s mental health, suicide prevention has become more vital than ever

Every 35 minutes, someone, somewhere in England and Wales takes their own life.1 While suicide can seem unexpected, there are often opportunities to intervene.
For instance, most people who die by suicide, in non-COVID-19 years at least, contacted their GP in the year before their death.2

Indeed, many chronic diseases that nurses see in day-to-day practice can predispose to suicide. Older people with cancer, neurological or rheumatoid disease, pain or liver conditions are all at increased suicide risk, for example.3 Depression is, of course, a pre-eminent risk factor for suicidality. About 60% of those who die by suicide have diagnosed depression.4

People with anxiety are also at increased risk of suicide. Those with anxiety and depression are at a higher risk than those with either condition alone,5 while depression with substance misuse, including alcohol and opioids, is ‘a particularly lethal combination’.6

As Lakeman and Fitzgerald note: ‘Nurses in almost every practice setting may encounter people who experience thoughts of suicide or they may care for people who have attempted suicide.’6

Suicide is common

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