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Suicide Prevention: Primary Care Is a Crucial Setting for Identifying Risk


Most Americans receive their healthcare from primary care physicians. The frequent contact with patients creates opportunities for physicians to identify and address suicide risks. Research tells us that people who die by suicide are more likely to have seen their primary care provider shortly before their death than any other healthcare professional.


At any given time, many of your patients are experiencing stress and anxiety, and some are having thoughts of suicide. The emotional and psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has added to an already fragile situation. A recent health tracking poll indicated that, since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, 53 percent of respondents reported that the increased levels of stress and worry have had a negative impact on their mental health.

While your patients present with many different concerns, it might be the concern they withhold from you that leads to tragedy.


The following risk factors and warning signs indicate an increased or heightened risk of suicide:

  • Mental health conditions, including depression, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, a history of a suicide attempt, or recent inpatient psychiatric care.

  • Behaviors, such as increased use of drugs or alcohol, withdrawing from activities, sleeping too much or too little, or giving away prized possessions.

  • Psychosocial stressors, such as divorce, the loss of a job, or death of a family member.

  • Verbalizations, including talking about killing themselves or expressing feelings of hopelessness, having no reason to live, being trapped, or being in unbearable pain.

What you can do:

If you identify an at-risk patient, begin with the following steps:

  • Have an honest conversation with the patient in private.
  • Listen to the patient’s story.

  • Avoid minimizing the patient’s problems.

  • Assure the patient that you care.

  • Ask directly about any suicidal thoughts.

  • Encourage the patient to seek treatment and offer referral suggestions.


If the patient acknowledges suicidal thoughts:

  • Take the risk seriously.

  • Help the patient remove any lethal means in their possession, such as drugs or firearms.

  • Escort the patient to mental health services or an emergency room if necessary.

(Debra Davidson, MJ, CPPS, Senior Patient Safety Risk Manager, The Doctors Company)



Billings Clinic, Cody, WY

Main Phone: 307-527-7561

Address: Billings Clinic—201 W Yellowstone Ave, Cody, WY 82414

Hours of Operation:

Primary Care appointments are available:

Monday - Friday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Same Day Care hours:

Monday - Friday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm


Cody Regional Rural Health Walk-In Clinic


Phone: 307-578-2903

Address: Cathcart Health Center—424 Yellowstone Avenue, Cody, WY 82414

Walk-in Clinic hours (for Non-Emergencies):

Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 6:30 pm

Saturday 9:00 am to 5:30 pm

Sunday 9:00 am to 3:30 pm.

The Walk-in Clinic may be closed early due to high patient volumes.

Please be aware that Walk-in Clinic hours may vary or change without notice. 


Big Horn Basin Children's Clinic


Phone: 307-87-5545

Address: Big Horn Basin Children's Clinic, 1220 Sunshine Ave, Suite 101, Cody, WY 82414

Medical Clinic Hours:

Monday through Thursday: 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Closed on Major Holidays

Same Day Appointments Available

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