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Keywords:

  • late-life suicide;
  • suicide prevention training;
  • multidisciplinary education

Abstract

Older adults are among the highest at risk for completing suicide, and they are more likely to seek mental health services from providers outside of traditional mental health care, but providers across the spectrum of care have limited training in suicide risk assessment and management and particularly lack training in suicide prevention for older adults. An educational program was developed to increase awareness and improve suicide risk assessment and management training for a range of healthcare providers who may see older adults in their care settings. One hundred thirty-two participants from two Veterans Affairs Medical Centers participated in a 6.5-hour-long workshop in the assessment and management of suicide risk in older adults. Participants were asked to complete pre- and postworkshop case notes and report on subjective changes in knowledge, attitudes, and confidence in assessment and managing suicide risk in older adults. Participants included social workers, nurses, physicians, psychologists, and occupational therapists from a variety of care settings, including outpatient and inpatient medical, outpatient and inpatient mental health, specialty clinics, home, and community. After the workshop, participants demonstrated improvement in the overall quality of case notes (P = .001), greater ability to recognize important conceptual suicide risk categories (P = .003), and reported heightened awareness of the importance of late-life suicide. The results suggest that educational training may have beneficial effect on the ability of multidisciplinary care providers to identify and manage suicide risk in elderly adults.