5 Ways Pharmacists Can Prevent Suicide

SEPTEMBER 10, 2015
Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor
About 40,000 individuals commit suicide each year in the United States, but pharmacists have an important role to play in preventing these tragic deaths.
 
Pharmacists Preventing Suicide founder and president C. Patrick Tharp, PhD, previously told Plantsvszombies.info that pharmacists are ideally situated to assist those in need because of their frequent interactions with patients and access to medical records.
 
However, pharmacists are often unprepared to properly respond to signs of suicide risk, as very few pharmacy schools incorporate suicide prevention courses in their curriculums.
 
“I encourage all pharmacists to learn about suicide prevention and to implement it on a daily basis,” Dr. Tharp said. “With proper education and preparation, pharmacists can prevent suicide and save lives.”
 
In recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day and National Suicide Prevention Week, here are 5 ways pharmacists can help patients who are contemplating suicide.
 
1.) Identify at-risk patients

Because pharmacists regularly dispense mental health medications such as antidepressants, they are in a unique position to identify patients who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts. 
 
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP, previously wrote that adolescents are among those at particularly high risk, with more than 9% experiencing at least 1 major depressive episode annually, and 6.3% reporting severe impairment as a result of their depression.
 
A recent study published in Translational Psychiatry suggested that the suicide rate among youths with major depressive disorder (MDD) has recently increased because clinicians are hesitant to prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which cause a temporary decrease in serotonin before taking effect.
 
“All clinicians need to use sound clinical judgment when working with depressed adolescents, and always err on the side of safety,” Wick wrote.
 
Certain weight-loss drugs such as naltrexone/bupropion carry a black box warning for suicide ideation, so patients taking these medications should be monitored, as well.
 


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