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In this Your Healthy Family, I'm following up on a story from a few weeks ago about UCHealth's Zero Suicide initiative.
Robin Schawe is the Zero Suicide coordinator at UCHealth Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. She tells me there is a big reason the healthcare world should be focused on suicide prevention.
“Thirty-eight percent of people who attempt suicide saw a health care provider within a week of attempting suicide, so we want to be able to do everything we can in the health care field to help stop that.”
Those numbers are inclusive of all healthcare settings, from the emergency room to primary care visits, physical therapy, and more.
Robin says when people are in emotional crisis they generally have one thing in common, and having a caring point of contact can directly address that. “Most people, when they come into the hospital in crisis, are feeling a sense of isolation, feeling alone, and the Caring Contact is designed to let them have a sense of connection to somebody else.”
Robin tells me one way she creates those caring contact bonds is by writing personal cards to patients who have come to the hospital because of a mental health crisis. “Not all the cards are the same. We try to personalize them for different patients, and sometimes we send more than one card, just depending on the situation with the patient. Sometimes we even get a response, but what we've learned with these caring contacts is that about 46% of the individuals who receive one do not return to the hospitals.”
How many cards has Robin written? When I interviewed her in late May she told me, “In May of 2020 my first card went out and about 6,700-plus cards have gone out since then - I keep track.”
It’s not hard to imagine by now that the number of handwritten cards is much closer to, if not more than 7,000 cards. When I asked if her hand ever gets tired, Robin replied, “It does, absolutely. But it's worth it to me to help those in the community.”
It’s not unusual for her to get a response from a grateful patient. “I love when they bring up the mail and I get cards back. I also get daily emails and voicemails. Sometimes people reach out because they need more support or more community resources or they just need to know that you're there."
Robin wants to remind us all that you don’t need to be a mental health professional to put Caring Contacts into practice. “I highly encourage people that when they have family members and friends going through a hard time, reach out to them, write them a letter, or call them on the phone. So often we just e-mail and text anymore and it's not that personable so take the time to show how much you care.”
As part of the Zero Suicide initiative, UCHealth is offering free QPR suicide prevention training sessions in Southern Colorado.
If you would like to arrange free suicide-prevention QPR training for your business or organization, feel free to reach out to Robin. She says, “QPR is offered free to any community, businesses, churches, schools. You just contact me through e-mail and I set up a time with you. We can either do it virtually or in person; it takes between 90 minutes to 2 hours and we do it all for free and we provide resources for you.”
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