Suicide Prevention: Interdisciplinary Teamwork, Critical Evaluation, and Risk Reduction
By Fred W. Meyer, MA, CJM, CCHP
Managing Director, NCCHC Resources
Working with a team of NCCHC Resources consultants, I recently completed an analysis for suicide prevention at a large urban jail. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the custody and mental health leadership teams. There was open communication within and between these groups. Every interaction we had showed their commitment to employing best practices for reducing in-custody suicides.
We were pleased to see:
- Mental health and custody staff engaged with each other and open to questions
- Complete suicide prevention training records
- Weekly line-level interdisciplinary meetings
- Weekly meetings for senior administrators from mental health and custody
- Risk-reduction infrastructure changes, including adding more privacy for medical and mental health interviews. This upgrade increases the likelihood that individuals will be more forthcoming in screening interviews.
- Installation of several suicide-resistant cells and air conditioning vents and additional mirrors to eliminate blind spots
- Strategic relocation of staff in the dayroom to increase interaction with incarcerated individuals
While this agency implemented nearly all the recommendations provided by NCCHC Resources in the initial report, there were additional opportunities for improvement identified during this visit. We were pleased to see that the agency realized a reduction in completed suicides after our first set of recommendations. I look forward to seeing them continue to reduce risks and improve their operation.
Suicide risks can be reduced through interdisciplinary teamwork, critical self-analysis, and a proactive approach to prevention in detention and correctional facilities. Medical and mental health working collaboratively with custody at all levels is the key to success. A team approach improves care, reduces risk, and may save lives.
Thanks for everything you do, the unsung heroes of the criminal justice system! If you are interested in working collaboratively with NCCHC Resources, please contact us at [email protected].