News & Media

Local efforts to push suicide training directly results in new nationwide policy

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

To combat the growing suicide epidemic in this country, and as a direct result of the Saginaw County Medical Society's (SCMS) leadership efforts, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a new policy to increase awareness and physician training on suicide.

The resolution was proposed by Joan M. Cramer, SCMS Executive Director, and approved at the 2018 AMA annual meeting in Chicago in June. The suicide of a local 26-year-old lifelong friend of Cramer's son in 2017 catapulted her actions, alongside other major contributions conjointly made by SCMS physician and medical student members.

Central Michigan University College of Medicine (CMU) student members Joshua David Donkin, Taylor Boehler-Gaudard, Kathleen Duemling, Elizabeth Godfrey and physician member Anthony M. Zacharek MD worked together in response to the alarming and significant increase of suicides in Saginaw County, Michigan.

Alarmingly, 95 percent of all people who attempt suicide have visited a physician within a year according to research conducted by Brian K. Ahmedani PhD, LMSW of Henry Ford Health Systems, Detroit, MI.

"We must do everything we can to help increase awareness about the risk factors for suicide,"
- Barbara L. McAneny MD, AMA President.

In response to better identify potential risk of suicide, the Henry Ford Health System started a ZEROSuicide initiative in 2001 to cut the suicide rate among its patients. The initiative has been highly successful and has maintained since the inception a remarkable 80 percent reduction in suicide among the Henry Ford Medical Group HMO membership.

This landmark decision by the AMA to support further physician training on suicidal ideation is just the start. The commitment to increased physician and patient interaction to further assess these risks and addressing the lack of access to inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care will be vital to reversing the momentum of suicide among patients long-term.

If you or any of your loved ones are struggling with suicidal thoughts, and for more information on how you or your organization can be trained in Suicide Awareness, please contact Barb Smith SUICIDE RESOURCE & Response Network at (989) 781-5260.

The SCMS is the professional association of 500+ physicians in Saginaw County, and a component of the Michigan State Medical Society.