“Like cutting doorways into an empty building”

Amy Barnhost’s opinion piece in today’s New York Times, “The Empty Promise of Suicide Prevention,” is important to read.

As doctors, we want to help people, and it can be hard for us to admit when our tools are limited. Antidepressants may seem like an obvious solution, but only about 40 percent to 60 percent of patients who take them feel better. …

Nonetheless, mental health providers perpetuate the narrative that suicide is preventable, if patients and family members just follow the right steps. …

But it is not that easy. Good outpatient psychiatric care is hard to find, hard to get into and hard to pay for. Inpatient care is reserved for the most extreme cases, and even for them, there are not enough beds. Initiatives like crisis hotlines and anti-stigma campaigns focus on opening more portals into mental health services, but this is like cutting doorways into an empty building. …

We need to address the root causes of our nation’s suicide problem — poverty, homelessness and the accompanying exposure to trauma, crime and drugs. …

If we ignore all this, and keep telling the story that there is a simple solution at hand, the families of suicide victims will be left wondering what they did wrong.

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