Catholic health systems in particular should provide hope and healing to those who suffer in silence, loneliness and despair in order to reduce the incidence of suicide.

That is the key message in a recent column by Ascension President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph R. Impicciche, JD, MHA, at healthcare trade publication Modern Healthcare.

Joe notes that, with support from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and other efforts, health systems around the country – especially Catholic health systems – are responding to the rising incidence of mental illness.

He highlights efforts at Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart in Pensacola, Florida, to screen for depression and suicide risk upon admission to the pediatric emergency department and then again upon inpatient admission. He also mentions that Ascension Via Christi in Kansas is collaborating with others in the Sedgwick County Suicide Prevention Coalition to promote and implement programs to achieve zero suicides in the county.

“Supporting these and similar efforts, in 2017 SAMHSA created the Zero Suicide initiative, offering grants of up to five years to implement comprehensive approaches to suicide prevention in health systems. As of last year, SAMHSA had awarded more than $61 million in grants for suicide prevention programs to be distributed over several years,” Joe writes.

Joe says Ascension is one year into its five-year Zero Suicide grant. The System is using the funds to create the Ascension Zero Suicide Collaborative Network, which will serve patients in Indiana, Tennessee and Michigan, seeking to transform primary care, behavioral health, medical/psychiatry, OB-GYN, residency clinic and emergency department services.

“Caregivers across the country … are beginning to pierce through the ‘silence, loneliness and despair’ of depression to let patients know that they care,” Joe says. “In the sphere of suicide prevention, this type of genuine, caring outreach is needed to save lives.”

Click here for his column at Modern Healthcare.