Health care

Healthcare providers in the Ozarks prioritize suicide prevention

Healthcare providers in the Ozarks prioritize suicide prevention

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) — Missouri and Arkansas have some of the highest suicide rates in the country. The Centers for Disease Control rank both states in the Top 15.

Healthcare providers in the Ozarks are prioritizing prevention more than ever. More than 40,000 Mercy employees completed a Zero Suicide Initiative course this year. According to Mercy, it was not done because of outside demands or requirements.

“Suicide is often what some consider a silent killer because in many cases people suffer in silence and don’t tell their healthcare provider,” says Dr. David Barbe, chief of primary care for Mercy Springfield. “We’ve seen a significant increase in thoughts, especially since the pandemic.”


dr. Barbe says patients who answer “yes” that they have suicidal thoughts are higher than he’s ever seen.

“If someone shows up in a GP office with a headache or a stomachache or if they have a minor injury… how do you know those symptoms are what they seem on the surface and not something related to depression? Or a suicide attempt,” said Dr. Kyle John, VP For Behavioral Health, Mercy.

Mercy says it now screens for suicidal idealization in the emergency room, hospitalization, and most aggressively in primary care.

“It has really raised awareness not only of the current epidemic of suicides, but also the importance of primary care physicians to screen for it,” Barbe said. “We look for changes in attitude, changes in behavior, changes in mood and we look for changes in their lifestyle.”

The patients at increased risk of suicide will be treated using a safety plan.

“If you come to the doctor with a sore throat and they diagnose you with strep throat, but you don’t get the antibiotic, well, that was kind of the point of showing up,” said Dr. John. “When we identify patients at higher risk for suicide, we use a standardized safety plan as treatment.”

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