Simple Checklist Leads to 82% Drop in Mental Health Patient Suicides

January 06, 2017

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

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A checklist designed to reduce environmental hazards at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) inpatient mental health units may have decreased patient suicide deaths, according to a recent study. The Mental Health Environment of Care Checklist, which has been implemented at more than 150 VA hospitals across the country, helps staff to identify and eliminate architectural and physical hazards that could increase the risk of patient suicide or self-harm, such as potential anchor points for hanging. Researchers found that use of the checklist was associated with a reduction in suicide deaths among patients, which was sustained for more than seven years. Lead author Vince Watts said, “[I]t appears that the Mental Health Environment of Care Checklist has had a substantial and persistent reduction in inpatient suicide deaths.” He suggested that structural interventions, such as changing the architectural and physical environment of an inpatient ward, may be more sustainable and less burdensome to hospital personnel than suicide prevention strategies that are reliant on staff education and training. “The checklist and resulting environmental changes involve hardwiring of changes into the architecture of mental health units,” Watts said. “Thus, staff don’t have to remember to do something. The unit is just designed that way.”

Spark Extra! Read the study abstract.