Suicide Prevention Today
In many cultures, mental illness and suicide have been lurking in the shadows since recorded history visit us. Every year, however, the shadow remains and many lives that could have been saved are lost. In 2020, it was anticipated that the suicide rate would be high among people aged 10-64. In the age ranges of 10-14 and 25-34 suicide was the second most common cause of death. The statistics are disconcerting and cause confusion about ligature-resistant hardware.
Today, there are several organisations working in the areas of education, prevention and rehabilitation. They also provide support. The American Hospital Association follows guidelines from the Joint Commission and ASHE. These guidelines include making patient rooms, bathrooms, corridors, and common patient care areas “ligature-resistant.”
These guidelines apply only to a psychiatric section of a facility and not to its entire structure. The protocol makes sense, except when behavioral beds are not available. In this scenario, patients are put in “general population rooms” which don’t have ligature-resistant doors and could be dangerous if a patient self harms.
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1. Save Lives: Hospitals are valuable assets for any community. They save many people’s lives every single day. On average, there are suicides in hospitals every year. 75 percent occur in the patient’s room. Patients in a state of mental distress scan their room for ligature-resistant products. When they find a place with products that are resistant to ligatures, this usually dissuades them from self-harming.
2. Safety: This is the environment of the hospital and measures taken to ensure that no harm occurs. Webster defines safety as “the condition or a state of being safe and free of risk, injury, or danger.” A hospital patient, for example, will notice that doors in the room are resistant against ligatures. It was worthwhile to install equipment that is resistant to ligatures.
3. There are fewer lawsuits: Although it is difficult to quantify the exact numbers, there are many cases where medical centres have been sued by people who feel that suicide could have avoided. Recently, a 22-year-old woman was locked up in a behavioral unit. After leaving her room, she could freely move on the floor. She entered the laundry and tied a sheet around the latch on the door. She draped her bedsheet on top of the latch, and then suffocated. It was found that the door locks were not ligature-resistant in the laundry. The result was that they were forced to pay $2.2 million.
4. Best Practices: Medical facilities will be safer if they install hardware that is resistant to ligatures. Similar measures may be adopted by other facilities if they are happy with the results of ligature-resistant devices in general population rooms. Overall, this good practice may also encourage new medical center architects to adopt more comprehensive architectural standards.
Why aren’t hospitals all equipped with ligature-resistant locks on their doors?
AHA’s article on “Ligature Requirements”, “Separating Fact from Fiction in Suicide Prevention”, starts with the statement: “Few events in health care are as tragic, and as preventable, as a death by suicide. Data shows that the suicide problem is real. Hospitals should be better able to identify patients at risk of suicide and remove the suicidal environment.
It is hard to find any information explaining the lack of ligature resistance in all medical facilities. You can take a variety of factors into account.
1. Cost and Efficiency. The ligature-resistant locks are less expensive but it costs more to replace the old door locks.
2. Regulation: At the moment, only beds in behavioral health are required to be ligature resistant. This regulation was developed by the Joint Commission in conjunction with SAMHSA CMS & ASHE. They each have a responsibility for a particular aspect of the ligature-resistant environment that exists today in inpatient mental health treatment.
3. Sociologists define Social Change in this way: “Changes that occur to human interactions and relationships, which transform social and cultural institutions.” In recent years, suicide prevention has received more media coverage than ever. Maybe the sheer increase in suicides is changing attitudes. Recent research has shown that each suicide impacts up to 135.
Conclusion: Medical facilities should have installed ligature resistance hardware on all doors to medical rooms. As a collective, we can’t come up with an answer that will stop suicide. Our voices, our eyes and our compassion can all help. We can all help save lives if continue to discuss the issue with each other, and local hospital leaders.