Friday, September 14, 2012

CCRMC Health Care Workers as Creators

Please join us thisTuesday, September 18 from 4-8 p.m for the annual Healthcare Workers as Creators event at our Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez.

Come celebrate creativity with your fellow staff members with great music, visual arts, hands-on workshops, an Art Cart to create your own art, and our first PaintFest - a chance to paint a mural for the hospital. There also will be food and drinks. The event will be held in the CCRMC cafeteria courtyard, and the farmers' market will have extended hours for that day as well.

We already have many of our staff, patients and friends of CCHS signed up. If you are interested in participating or volunteering, please contact Dr. Alan Siegel via HSD lotus notes.



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Know More: National Suicide Prevention Week

During this national suicide prevention week, I would like to take a moment and share some of the work being done and the resources available in our community to prevent such tragedies. Stigma around suicide often creates a false sense that it is less prevalent than it truly is. In fact, some statistics show suicide is more than twice as common as homicide. Nationwide, it is the 10th leading cause of death. In Contra Costa County, roughly 120 people die by suicide every year.

These tragic acts don’t need to occur. Suicide is preventable and help is available. More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have an underlying mental disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder or alcohol or substance abuse problems at the time of their death. If we each take a moment to learn about the warning signs and the available resources, we may someday save a life.

Over the years, I’ve walked Out of the Darkness Overnight to help shine a light on suicide. This issue is very personal and very important to me. Through my experience and the experiences of others, I know the difference we can make if we integrate mental health service into primary health care.

Below is a Get Ready, Get Healthy episode created by Contra Costa Health Services. It’s 30 minutes long and shares some very powerful and moving stories. At the bottom of this post, I’ve also included some resources where you can get more information about suicide and helping people through trying times.

Healthy Outlook: Spotting the Signs of Suicide -

Contra Costa Crisis Center: Call 1-800-273-8255 or visit
Trevor Project: Call 1-866-4-U-TREVOR or visit
Contra Costa Mental Health:

Monday, September 10, 2012

National Suicide Prevention Week, September 9-15

You Can Make a Difference During National Suicide Prevention Week, September 9-15

from the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (

Many of you know that ending suicide and the suffering that accompanies suicide for all those affected is very important work to me.  Please take a moment to learn more about Suicide Prevention Week and how you can make a difference. I will post Contra Costa County specific information as well. Thank you for taking the time to learn more, end suffering and save lives.

More very soon,

National Suicide Prevention Week is taking place this week with activities all over the U.S. to bring vital awareness and attention to this national health problem. Since suicide is an issue all of us are deeply concerned about, you can be a part of the national movement to prevent suicide by:
Getting informed. Learn about suicide risk factors, warning signs and how to help someone who is in crisis. This information can help save lives.

Raising awareness. Spreading this knowledge will greatly help inform the public about suicide and the ways to prevent it. Let your friends and family know about these warning signs and suicide risk factors by sharing these links via your social media profiles. You can also post this image on your Facebook page to promote National Suicide Prevention Week.

Being involved. Join our Field Advocate Program and work with us to make suicide prevention a national priority by signing up to be an advocate in your community. Register for an Out of the Darkness Community Walk in one of 275 communities across the country. Volunteer with your local chapter -- click here to find one in your area.

Remember, help is always available and suicide can be prevented. Join us and be a part of this mission.

Keep the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number handy and call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you or someone you know is in crisis or feeling suicidal.Facts and Figure

The latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 36,909 suicide deaths were reported in the U.S. in 2009. This latest rise places suicide again as the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. Nationally, the suicide rate increased 2.4 percent over 2008 to equal approximately 12.0 suicides per 100,000 people. The rate of suicide has been increasing since 2000. This is the highest rate of suicide in fifteen years.
Suicide Rate over 16 Years
  • Every 14.2 minutes someone in the United States dies by suicide.

  • Nearly 1,000,000 people make a suicide attempt every year.

  • 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.

  • Most people with mental illness do not die by suicide.

  • Recent data puts yearly medical costs for suicide at nearly $100 million (2005).

  • Men are nearly 4 times more likely to die by suicide than women. Women attempt suicide 3 times as often as men. Click here to view.

  • Suicide rates are highest for people between the ages of 40 and 59. Click here to view.

  • White individuals are most likely to die by suicide, followed by Native American peoples. Click here to view.
YearNumber of Suicide DeathsPopulationRate per 100,000

Figures from the Centers for Disease Control for the year 2009.
All rates are per 100,000 population.

Suicide can be prevented. While some suicides occur without any outward warning, most people who are suicidal do give warnings. Prevent the suicide of loved ones by learning to recognize the signs of someone at risk, taking those signs seriously and knowing how to respond to them.
Warning signs of suicide include:
  • Observable signs of serious depression:
    Unrelenting low mood
    Anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension
    Sleep problems
  • Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
  • Recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks
  • Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die
  • Making a plan:
    Giving away prized possessions
    Sudden or impulsive purchase of a firearm
    Obtaining other means of killing oneself such as poisons or medications
  • Unexpected rage or anger
The emotional crises that usually precede suicide are often recognizable and treatable. Although most depressed people are not suicidal, most suicidal people are depressed. Serious depression can be manifested in obvious sadness, but often it is rather expressed as a loss of pleasure or withdrawal from activities that had been enjoyable. One can help prevent suicide through early recognition and treatment of depression and other psychiatric illnesses.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

We need to talk - the power of information exchange

This is the third time over the years I have posted some version of this message. Today it feels more timely than ever.

This blog was designed in an attempt to open an alternative line of communication. It was my hope that not only two way conversation may occur, but perhaps an open forum of dialogue from a diverse set of perspectives might follow.

The importance of communication cannot be underestimated. Since 1995, the most frequently identified root cause of sentinel events in the United States is faulty communication (66% of reported instances)*. In other words, the majority of serious preventable harm in US hospitals is caused by communication failures within the system.

If we review the Institute of Medicine’s six “Aims for Improvement,” we can ask ourselves what this framework communicates to us on behalf of the patients we serve:

Safe: Please don’t hurt me. Provide care for me with a health system that is safe.
Effective: Give me what I need based on the best known science.
Patient-Centered: Please respect me and all the things that make me uniquely who I am. Let me choose to be involved in my health care decisions in a way that I am comfortable.
Timely: Please don’t make me wait unnecessarily. Provide care to me at the right time.
Efficient: Please don’t waste my time or my care provider's time.
Equitable: Please give me an equal chance to be healthy. Please don’t leave me out.

The importance of communication isn't a new concept. Communication is at the root of so much of what goes right and wrong for us in all aspects of our lives. We communicate for reasons beyond mere information exchange. We communicate for survival and companionship.

Several years ago, while at a meeting for the Integrated Nurse Leadership Program, I learned about tap code , a method of communication that is commonly used by prisoners. In this case it was used by prisoners of war (POW) to communicate with each other. Letters are placed on a grid and by assigning a number to each letter; prisoners could communicate with one another by tapping on things such as a wall or pipes. It is simple in design yet very effective.

Newcomers could easily and quickly catch on. Information such as what questions interrogators were asking, to who needed help or extra food or supplies could be shared among the prisoners. POW Vice Admiral James Stockdale describes the code ,"Our tapping ceased to be just an exchange of letters and words; it became conversation. Elation, sadness, humor, sarcasm, excitement, depression -- all came through." Here is a link to a video of Stockdale speaking about the importance of the ability to communicate. In listening to him it's clear to me that this tool not only allowed for the exchange of information, but also the exchange of human spirit. He recalls that the men would communicate at any cost, "if you get caught and tortured for a while, that's just the do it anyway."

Failed communication isolates us from each other and all too often leads to misunderstanding; misunderstanding to misinformation; misinformation to complete chaos.

We continue to seek your ideas about how we can better communicate, how we can better listen. Our aim is to build an enduring system that promotes open and transparent communication. It’s not to say that we haven't done many things to promote better communication, because we have, but we know we can improve and we need to do more. Your participation will be essential. We are seeking the input of others from within our system that specialize in communication. Please join us as we seek your help to explore strategies that will strengthen our ability to connect with each other and those we here to serve.

More very soon,