Originally published by CVS Health on September 8, 2020
If you are thinking about suicide, know someone who is, or need to talk with someone, we encourage you to immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
Suicide trends in the United States are staggering. The rate of suicide is now at its highest level since 1941
Coupled with the isolating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the longstanding effects of systemic racism, the U.S. is facing a mental health crisis that must be addressed. CVS Health is taking multiple actions to do just that.
Many factors in addition to mental health can contribute to suicidal behaviors such as relationship problems, physical health challenges, work related issues, along with access to lethal means. With the right intervention and support, resources and management of suicidal thoughts, suicide is known to be preventable. In fact, 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a potentially treatable mental health condition.
The time to act is now.
As one of the country’s leading health companies, CVS Health is committed to helping people on their path to better health. Part of that mission is and must be the reversal of our devastating suicide trends.
As part of our commitment to flatten the ‘second curve’ of the escalating mental health crisis and increase access to affordable, quality care with a focus on social determinants of health, we are offering resources to support a variety of groups — young adults and college students, attempt survivors, Aetna members and CVS Health colleagues. These resources are outlined below.
To combat the rising rates of suicide and our alarming mental health crisis, CVS Health is offering a range of specially tailored resources and support for members and non-members in the month of September and beyond.
To drive meaningful suicide prevention, everyone must play a role. As employers, health care providers and community members — we have a collective responsibility to do more to intervene at times most vulnerable for those at-risk of suicide.
Aetna’s signature Resources for Living® (RFL) program provides real-time confidential phone support, counseling sessions and learning tools to anyone in need, whether or not they’re covered in Aetna insurance plans. Individuals who do not have RFL as an insurance plan benefit should call 1-833-327-AETNA (1-833-327-2386) (TTY:711) for assistance. RFL resources include:
Resources for supporting basic needs including family meals, access to childcare and financial guidance
Access to informational resources
Management consultation for organizations
We’ve also enhanced our nationwide mental health programming effort with new charitable investments focused on health care workers, essential workers and seniors to flatten the “second curve” of the pandemic – the mental health crisis. For more information on CVS Health’s COVID-19 relief efforts related to mental and emotional well-being, visit cvshealth.com/secondcurve.
We are continually evaluating our clinical processes and addressing gaps that previously would have prevented care management teams from reaching members who may be suicidal. In collaboration with AFSP, we are facilitating access to suicide prevention screenings, as well as offering expanded resources and communications for at-risk members. These include:
A patient safety screener (PSS-3) tool which includes a series of three questions about mental well-being is used for all members who speak to an Aetna Behavioral Health clinician, regardless of their risk-rating.
To prevent future suicide attempts, a safety planning template helps Aetna providers drive conversations with patients recently discharged from the hospital following an attempt. The guided outreach will help patients understand warning signs, identify coping strategies and connect with key people to call for support.
“Caring contact” postcards include messaging that expresses the recipient’s value and that their life is worth living. Postcards are sent to members, aged 18 and over, who are recently discharged from an inpatient stay following a suicide attempt. This method has shown a 50-65 percent reduction in suicide attempts. Aetna is the only health insurer to send suicide prevention targeted “touch base” contact postcards to members.
Aetna Resources For Living℠ (ARFL) provides confidential mental well-being support, counseling sessions, and learning tools. You can call us at 1-833-327-AETNA (1-833-327-2386) (TTY:711).
Resources are also available to help CVS Health colleagues. The My EAP by ARFL program is available 24/7. Online tools include myStrength, which provides digital resources designed to help users navigate life circumstances including, depression, drug or alcohol recovery, chronic pain and sleep management.
Lift the Mask – Portraits of Life with Mental Illness is a documentary developed by the Quell Foundation, chronicling individual mental health journeys with a goal of destigmatizing conversations about mental health. Watch the trailer to preview this powerful documentary.
In recognition of suicide prevention, Aetna, a CVS Health company, lit purple the cupola at its office headquarters in Hartford, CT on September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day.
Are you worried someone in your life may be struggling with their mental health or considering suicide? There are common warning signs to watch for in loved ones, friends and colleagues. They can stem from biological, psychological, social or environmental events.
Know the suicide risk signs:
Increased use of alcohol and drugs
Searching online for suicide information or for ways to end life
Talking about harming oneself, burdening others, feeling trapped, hopelessness or in unbearable pain
Giving away prized possessions
Delusions and hallucinations of reality
Extreme mood changes such as excessive sadness, worry, aggression, fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, shame, or sudden improvement
Changes in eating or sleeping habits
Withdrawal from social activities with friends and family or increased isolation
Problems concentrating or completing daily activities
An intense concern with appearance or fear of weight gain
Pattern of physical ailments without cause such as body aches and headaches
Early intervention is key, and recognizing the warning signs are helpful in suicide prevention. Plus, research shows that talking about suicide or suicidal thoughts does not increase the risk of someone committing suicide. So, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask the person what’s going on.
Learn more about how you can support someone who is considering suicide. And if you’re ready to have the talk, here’s a guide from AFSP on the best way to go about it.