Treating Suicidal Patients during COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, opportunities for mental health professionals to connect with clients in person are limited. Yet the emotional impact of the pandemic—social isolation, financial concerns, anxiety, loss—place many people at increased risk for suicide.

In the short videos that follow, Dr. Barbara Stanley, professor of medical psychology at Columbia University and director of the Suicide Prevention – Training, Implementation, and Evaluation Program at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, provides concrete tips for making sure clients stay safe without having to rely on hospitalization.

These videos were adapted from the SPRC webinar Treating Suicidal Patients During COVID-19: Best Practices and Telehealth.

Woman on phone

Initiating and Maintaining Remote Contact
Hear recommendations for initiating and maintaining remote contact with clients who may be at risk for suicide, with an emphasis on gathering specific information to access the client and their supports in the event of an emergency, preparing for technology interruptions, and best practices to include at every visit.

Assessing Suicide Risk
Learn tips for assessing the suicide risk of clients remotely.

Developing a Safety Plan Remotely
Listen to guidance on developing a safety plan remotely, highlighting how the process is the same—and different—from safety planning in person.

Additional Resources

Aftercare That Makes a Difference

Suicide attempt survivors are most vulnerable in the days and weeks after an attempt. What aftercare can you or your hospital provide to help reduce re-attempts and suicide deaths?

In this brief video, Diana Cortez Yañez, a suicide attempt survivor and lived experience consultant, shares the value of aftercare and what hospitals can do to help patients safely navigate transitions in care. She provides specific examples, such as the following:

  • A safety plan to use after leaving the hospital
  • Contact from the hospital after discharge
  • Appointments set up with an outpatient provider

Transforming Tribal Communities: Indigenous Perspectives on Suicide Prevention

Culturally relevant suicide prevention strategies that are endorsed by community members can lead to long-lasting change. The following six-to-eight-minute webinar clips, adapted from SPRC’s Tribal Community of Learning Series, feature expert advice on addressing the root causes of mental health issues and suicide in American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities by drawing on community strengths.

Weaving Culture into Suicide Prevention Strategies

Rob England of the Yurok Tribe and United Indian Health Services, Inc., highlights the merits of weaving culture into evidence-based suicide prevention strategies to engage multiple generations of Native community members in prevention efforts that are effective and transformative.

Four Recommendations for Tribal Suicide Prevention

Dr. Melissa Walls of the Bois Forte and Couchiching First Nations Ojibwe discusses four recommendations for suicide prevention in AI/AN communities: assess the impact of structural influences on suicide; target early life course factors to improve outcomes; identify cultural influences on prevention; and listen to indigenous voices.                        

Honoring Culture and Building Partnerships

Panganga Pungowiyi describes how individual, community, and institutional partnerships, using a multi-pronged approach with a focus on capacity building, can help address the root causes of mental health issues and suicide and lead to long-lasting environmental and policy change

Adapting Evidence-Based Practices in Tribal Communities

Esther Tenorio of the San Felipe Pueblo Health and Wellness Department and Dr. Deborah Altschul of the University of New Mexico discuss the process of working with AI/AN communities to select, modify, implement, and evaluate evidence-based practices to ensure cultural fit.

Additional Resources

Examples Presented by the Speakers

Faith Leaders’ Guide to Self-Care after a Suicide

When someone dies by suicide, faith leaders are often called upon to provide care and support to family members, friends and others in the community. As a result faith leaders may experience unique stressors and challenges that affect their own well-being. This video highlights the importance of self-care among faith leaders and shares guidance on what faith leaders can do to care for themselves after a suicide.

Rocky Mountain short takes on suicide prevention: Postvention 101

In this first of a series of podcasts on postvention, speakers Dr. Sarra Nazem and Dr. Jack Jordan lay a foundation for understanding what suicide postvention is, what it entails, who it is for, and why it is essential to a comprehensive suicide prevention plan. Jack Jordan, PhD is a clinical psychologist, grief therapist and published researcher in the field. Links to his recommended resources are included.

Strategic Communication Planning

Strategic planning is key to developing effective communication materials for suicide prevention. The following five-to-six-minute webinar clips feature expert advice on developing a communication plan, understanding your audience, and evaluating your efforts. Adapted from SPRC’s Strategic Communication Workshop Series, each video has a free, downloadable worksheet to help you put these skills into practice.

Introduction to Strategic Communication Planning

SPRC Director of Grantee and State Initiatives Kerri Nickerson discusses the importance of strategic communication planning and walks through the key components of successful communication materials. Use the accompanying worksheet to develop your communication plan.

Understanding and Reaching Your Audience: We R Native

Stephanie Craig Rushing, project director at the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, discusses how We R Native engages its target audience to develop messaging that resonates with tribal youth. Use the accompanying worksheet to identify the best messaging and channels to reach your audience

Understanding and Reaching Your Audience: South Carolina

Suicide Prevention Trainer/Coordinator Robert Cottingham describes how the South Carolina Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative (SCYSPI) is working with youth to plan and implement their social media efforts. Use the accompanying worksheet to identify the best messaging and channels to reach your audience

Evaluating Your Communication Efforts

Rajeev Ramchand, senior behavioral scientist at RAND Corporation, presents key evaluation concepts and questions to consider when creating an evaluation plan for communication efforts. Use the accompanying worksheet to help evaluate your communication efforts.

Additional Resources

Examples Presented by the Speakers

How emergency departments can help prevent suicide among at-risk patients: Five brief interventions

This nine-minute video describes five brief interventions which can be used to prevent suicide prior to discharge from emergency departments.

  • Brief patient education helps patients understand their condition, treatment and follow-up strategies.
  • Safety plans are developed collaboratively with clinicians guiding patients to identify coping strategies and resources patients can use before or during a suicidal crisis.
  • Lethal means counseling engages patients in a discussion to limit access to means of suicide until they no longer feel suicidal.
  • Rapid referral schedules follow-up mental health appointments within 24 hours of discharge. Caring contacts consists of ongoing contact with discharged patients via postcards, letters, phone calls or various other media. 

David Jobes, PhD, on Evidence-Based Psychological Treatments and Suicide-Specific Brief Interventions

In these two brief videos, David Jobes  describes evidence-based psychological treatments and suicide-specific brief interventions for people who have attempted or are at risk for suicide.

Evidence-Based Psychological Treatments

This video covers three types of evidence-based, suicide-specific

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy 
  • Two forms of suicide-specific cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality 

Suicide-Specific Brief Interventions

This video covers four evidence-based brief interventions for

  • Teachable Moment Brief Intervention 
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Safety Planning
  • Attempted Suicide Short Intervention Program 

Created by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, Education Development Center, and Universal Health Systems.

To find more resources about evidence-based treatments for suicide, go to

Rocky Mountain Short Takes on Suicide Prevention: Suicide Prevention Master Series with Dr. Jerry Reed

This podcast episode features an interview with Jerry Reed, Education Development Center’s senior vice president for practice leadership and Suicide, Violence, and Injury Prevention Portfolio lead. Reed shares his professional journey, as well as the background behind the development of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP) and launch of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance). He also explores ways to advance the NSSP and provides an overview of the major priorities of the Action Alliance.

Rocky Mountain Short Takes on Suicide Prevention

In this podcast trilogy, Rocky Mountain Short host Adam Hoffberg interviews three key Zero Suicide champions who attended the 50th annual American Association of Suicidology conference.

Julie Goldstein Grumet, PhD, oversees the Zero Suicide Institute as the Director of Health and Behavioral Health Initiatives at the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. She discusses the foundation of Zero Suicide and offers strategic direction to improve the effectiveness of behavioral health, clinical care, and primary care providers in recognizing and responding to suicide emergencies.

Anthony Pisani, PhD, of the University of Rochester Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide, discusses his model for suicide safer care; prevention-oriented risk formulation; and the need for a common framework for assessing, communicating, and responding to suicide risk for clinicians, patients, and medical records.

Brian Ahmedani, PhD, LMSW, of the Henry Ford Health System Center for Health Services Research, discusses how the Zero Suicide initiative fits with the center’s investigation of ways to improve quality, efficiency, and equality in health care. He also discusses recent research findings on suicide prevention in health systems.

Created by the Rocky Mountain MIRECC for Veteran Suicide Prevention and shared with permission from MIRECC.

To learn more about Zero Suicide, go to