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Take care to enjoy this holiday season

December 14, 2020 | Mental Health

Now and extending into the new year, many people feel lonely and down. For some, that can mean an increased risk for suicide. Learn how to manage the holidays.

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). Or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor.

Certainly there’s never been a holiday season quite like this one. The usual stresses around too many events, too much spending and too much indulgence seem quaint compared to pandemic-related problems, including fear of infection, lost jobs, isolation and kids struggling with online learning. Doreen Marshall, Ph.D., vice president of Mission Engagement, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, has published a thoughtful guide to Taking Care of Yourself This Holiday Season. It offers many practical suggestions.

In addition, Aetna, a CVS Health company, has a number of specific guides to managing stresses related to annual celebrations, including communicating during the holidays, handling loneliness, and gift-giving during COVID-19.

We are committed to reducing the number of suicides.

Suicide trends in the United States are staggering. The rate of suicide is now at its highest level since 19411, and suicide is the second leading cause of death of those between the ages of 10 to 24.2 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.

Facts about suicide:

1 in 4

The number of 18 to 24 year-olds having seriously considered suicide in the preceding 30 days, according to a June 2020 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) survey found that suicidal ideation is up among young people since last year.

Facts about suicide:

11% of adults

have seriously considered suicide in the preceding 30 days, an additional find by the the CDC survey which identifies that the mental health of the whole U.S population is deteriorating.

Facts about suicide:

35% increase

in the national suicide rate between 1999 and 2018 according to the CDC.

Facts about suicide:


the number of suicides per day, according to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). For every suicide, there are an estimated 30 attempts (CDC).

Many factors in addition to mental health can contribute to suicidal behaviors such as relationship problems, physical health challenges, and 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.

That’s why CVS Health is offering a range of specially tailored resources and support for members and communities. These resources are outlined below.

Ways to get help

Resources for everyone



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:

  • Emotional support

  • Resources for supporting basic needs including family meals, access to childcare and financial guidance

  • Community referrals

  • Access to informational resources

  • Management consultation for organizations

Support for vulnerable populations amid COVID-19



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. Learn more about CVS Health’s COVID-19 relief efforts related to mental and emotional well-being.

Intervention for our Aetna members



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).

For CVS Health and MinuteClinic colleagues



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.

Reaching out to those at risk

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.