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Minimizing Schizophrenia Suicide Risk in Washington State Patients


Suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in the United States. Every day, approximately 132 people take their own lives. It is a harsh reality because behind each number is a person who struggles with feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, and desperation. If your loved one has schizophrenia, they may have it even harder as the illness exacerbates the above symptoms. Some types of psychosis makes them think that suicide is the only way out.

Today, we will talk about the link between schizophrenia and suicide in Washington State patients. We will also present certain strategies for minimizing the schizophrenia suicide risks.

Schizophrenia and suicide rates in Washington State

In 2020, 1170 Washington State citizens lost their lives to suicide. However, this figure represents only a part of the larger mental health challenge. What might be even more agonizing is the number of people who attempted suicide, which is around 1.70 million people across the country. This makes it necessary for us to show compassion and provide support to people who need it. People with schizophrenia, a condition where 40-79% have had suicidal thoughts, are particularly vulnerable.

In the acute phase, distressing psychotic experiences and overwhelming emotions intensify the risk. Suicide is a leading cause of death for people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders, with attempted suicide rates ranging from 10% to 50%.

A man holding his head because he's at a higher schizophrenia suicide risk
Schizophrenia suicide risk is particularly high when the illness is in the acute phase.

Risk factors that lead to suicide in schizophrenia patients

To come up with effective prevention strategies and apply them successfully, we first must understand the connection between schizophrenia and suicidal ideation. Or rather, the reasons why people affected by this mental health disorder consider ending their lives. These factors include:

  • The severity of symptoms – Schizophrenia includes symptoms such as distressing hallucinations and delusions. Sometimes, these symptoms become so intense that coping with daily life becomes difficult. The more intense they are, the higher the risk of suicide.
  • Comorbid conditions – Your loved one might struggle with other mental health challenges at the same time, such as concurrent depression or substance abuse, which causes drug-induced schizophrenia. This complicates the issue further and increases the risk of suicide.
  • Isolation and lack of support – Feelings of despair and hopelessness can be interpreted as warning signs of schizophrenia about to turn lethal. If your loved one lacks your support, these negative feelings may become stronger. Coping with these emotions is difficult and often overwhelming, which makes it more likely to have suicidal thoughts.
  • External factors – As difficult as dealing with schizophrenia is, external factors can make it even harder. Factors such as homelessness, unemployment, and societal stigma can significantly enhance the risk of suicide. Homelessness makes it challenging to access mental health resources. In addition to creating an economic burden, unemployment makes schizophrenia patients feel like their lives lack purpose. On top of that, societal stigma toward mental health creates an additional barrier to seeking help.
  • Previous suicidal thoughts: If your loved one had thoughts about ending their own life before, it means that they are at a higher risk of going through that tough experience again. Knowing about their past thoughts signals how important it is to keep a close eye on them and provide ongoing help and support.

The importance of preventing schizophrenia suicide cases in WA

As we have seen, people with schizophrenia face a high risk of suicide. In fact, the lifetime risk of suicidal death for people with this mental illness is 5.6%. The risk is present even after recovery, as people often lose their roles and functions, mostly because of cognitive issues. This is characteristic of people with schizophrenia disorganized type, which, along with paranoid schizophrenia, some consider to be the most dangerous type of schizophrenia there is.

To solve this, we need to focus on prevention and support. The risk of suicide in patients with acute schizophrenia in Washington State is even higher in the first five years after diagnosis. This tells us that early intervention can be a deciding factor. In other words, we can minimize the chances of a lethal outcome by providing support right from the beginning of recovery.

If you or a loved one is experiencing thoughts of suicide or any mental health crisis, it’s crucial to seek immediate help. You can turn to our Mental Health Hotline WA or contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling, texting, or chatting online.

Prevention strategies

Suicide and schizophrenia don’t have to go hand in hand. We can help prevent the suicide of your loved one with acute schizophrenia. Prevention strategies include:

  1. Early diagnosis
  2. Ongoing risk assessment
  3. Comprehensive treatment plan
  4. Strong support network

Early diagnosis

Early diagnosis is more than just understanding your loved one’s condition. It helps us provide the right support at the right time. When we diagnose the issue early, we can do a lot to minimize its adverse effects and lower the chance of suicidal schizophrenic thoughts. Early intervention ensures that an affected individual gets the help they need when they need it.

Ongoing risk assessment

When we consistently check in, we can immediately observe changes and challenges. This is important in managing the risk of suicide because it lets us act proactively in adjusting the treatment plan. Regular checking makes sure that we provide the proper care and that the treatment process is heading in the right direction.

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Comprehensive treatment plan

Having a comprehensive treatment plan is important when dealing with schizophrenia. It involves medication that helps manage symptoms and maintains stability. In addition, psychotherapy gives your loved one practical strategies for coping with the challenges of this mental illness. This approach provides effective and well-rounded support.

Strong support network

A strong support system grants your loved one safety and stability. This system includes friends, family, and mental health professionals. Family support is especially valuable if you have a family history of schizophrenia and suicide. Family and friends provide support and empathy, while mental health professionals provide guidance through the recovery process. These support networks reduce the risk of suicide by creating a compassionate environment and giving schizophrenia patients the tools to face the challenges.

Role of healthcare providers and community programs in minimizing schizophrenia suicide risk

We, the healthcare providers, detect issues early, diagnose, and create the kind of schizophrenia treatment Washington patients can greatly benefit from. We treat schizophrenia using the following approaches:

  1. Antipsychotic medications: These medicines help manage symptoms of schizophrenia. You take them daily or get injections monthly.
  2. Psychosocial treatments: These are therapies that help with coping and life goals. They help reduce the chance of symptoms coming back.
  3. Family education and support: We include programs that teach families and friends about schizophrenia so they can better support their loved ones.
  4. Coordinated specialty care (CSC): A focused program for early-stage schizophrenia. It combines talk therapy, medication, and family involvement.
  5. Assertive community treatment (ACT): If your loved one is at risk, this is the right program. It uses a team to help your loved one stay out of the hospital and find a home.
  6. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): We oftentimes suggest DBT for schizophrenia mood symptoms management and improving emotional regulation. It’s particularly useful for patients with challenging emotional and interpersonal issues.

Mental health professionals are also important for preventing suicide in patients with acute schizophrenia in Washington State. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors give support through ongoing therapy and help your loved one cope, manage symptoms, and manage problems that are linked to suicidal tendencies.

Finally, community programs focus on awareness and reducing mental health stigma. They help us fight schizophrenia greatly, as they encourage the affected individuals and their families to seek help and get adequate support.

A therapist taking notes during a session with a patient during which they talk about schizophrenia and suicide
Seeking professional help is necessary for preventing suicide in WA schizophrenia patients.

Do WA insurance providers cover treatment for schizophrenia patients with suicidal tendencies?

Covering the cost of treatment for patients who attempted suicide used to be frowned upon by insurance providers in the past. However, nowadays, that is typically no longer the case. After all, refusing to treat a person with suicidal tendencies, especially if they happen to be suffering from schizophrenia, could lead to them re-attempting to take their own life.

When it comes to Washington State, in particular, major insurance providers, including Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield, generally offer plans that encompass various aspects of schizophrenia treatment. This includes, but is not limited to, hospitalization, medication, psychotherapy, and emergency intervention in cases of suicidal crises.

Nevertheless, remember that Cigna mental health coverage WA patients pay for may differ from what other providers offer. Therefore, patients and their families must understand these differences first to make sure that the coverage aligns with the type of treatment they require.

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It is also important to note that healthcare law and regulation changes can impact insurance coverage, as has already happened. Advocacy for mental health coverage has led to improvements in policies, making mental health services more accessible and inclusive for individuals seeking treatment in rehabilitation centers.

Still, if you are uncertain about what your loved one’s insurance provider can and what they cannot cover, it’s best you contact them for clarification. In some cases, healthcare providers or mental health professionals can also assist in understanding what’s covered and advocating for necessary treatments.

Preventing suicide is a collective responsibility

Everyone is a valuable part of our society, and our collective responsibility is to care for each other. Each person contributes in unique ways, and by ensuring the well-being of everyone, we strengthen our community. Fighting the issue of growing schizophrenia suicide numbers in Washington State begins with spreading awareness. This will help break the stigma that stops people from communicating their emotions openly, reaching out, and eventually seeking professional help. We should all strive to build an inclusive and compassionate society where everyone can live a healthy life. Why not start today?

Sources
  1. Sarkhel, S. (2021). Mental health insurance and attempted suicide: Need for a reappraisal. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 63(6), 624. https://doi.org/10.4103/indianjpsychiatry.indianjpsychiatry_902_21
  2. Suicide in Washington Presentation – Washington State Department of Health, doh.wa.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/Documents/Pubs/140-254-SuicideInWA.pdf.
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