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Dr. George Patrin Response to MedPage Today Article on the Need for Novel Research to Combat Suicide

June 26, 2021

Suicide Continues to Get Sad Before It Gets Sadder
This article discusses the need for continued research on suicide and it is trending upward.  It also discusses needed updates on definitions associated with suicide. Here is an excerpt:

In 2018, in response to yet another historically high Colorado suicide death count, I published an article imploring Colorado suicide prevention administrators and practitioners to heed the alert, “It is going to get worse before it gets worse.” In reaction to this alarm, and many earlier words of warning, some readers accused me of suffering from the ‘Chicken Little Syndrome.’

With the advantage of hindsight, it is now fitting to paraphrase a popular quote from Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote: “Facts are the enemy of [your perceived] truth.”

Response to “Suicide Continues to Get Sad Before it Gets Sadder” 

I asked Dr. George Patrin, founder of the Serendipity Alliance, to comment on the above article. Dr. Patrin is a leader in the field of Suicidology and former Advisory Council member for the Children’s Mental Health Network. Here is his reply:

I agree it’s sad that we simply are not getting it, that suicide deaths continue because we keep looking for a magic risk data point to alert us that we need to care enough to intervene and stay with the person until they are in a better, brighter place. Along with the author, Russell Copelan, I am very tired of our society being OK with suicide getting worse before it gets better…or not.

He implored Colorado suicide prevention leaders to heed the warning, and was subsequently labeled with the “Chicken Little Syndrome.” So be it. With the advantage of the ‘retrospectoscope,’ he was/is right. “Suicide rates are at 50-year historical highs across all age and work groups.” Community leaders and healthcare researcher heads are still stuck firmly in the sand with “Facts the enemy of [perceived] truth(s).” Facilities are “overrun with kids attempting suicide and suffering from other forms of major mental health illness.”

I caution the author when he says “those untrained in emergency psychiatry … cannot possibly align disciplines to formulate ethical and innovative suicide research hypotheses and designs in high-risk persons.” There are “best practices” out there that have “interrupted the trajectory of historically elevated suicidal events across our country.” My opinion, we do not need to “formulate (more) research questions,” but look to “connect the observations and commonalities” we already know.
We are guilty of cognitive dissonance in conducting “biased assessments that… normalize violence, construct risk, or overlook often unobvious and unconventional, yet likely significant temporal factors.”

Hospitals stating “the most difficult requirement… in 2020 was to reduce the risk of suicide” in their enrolled population need only look to other organizations who have achieved zero suicide, at least for a time (I.e. Henry Ford Health Systems) and look to replicating their transformational processes. We do not need more data and “bad suicide science.” Please! Stop looking for the best time to treat suicidal ideation. Rather, begin care with the real killer, depression, before a crisis has arisen. To do this, we must know our patients, our population, and put integrated teams in place in Primary Care, introducing those under our care to behavioral health at the first visit, establishing a living healthcare plan, rather than waiting until crisis and putting a safety rescue plan in place. The best people to recognize this are the person’s trusted ‘friends’ who we must call on to be on the patient’s healthcare team to surround the depressed person with caring, to show them with action that they matter. This is not that hard! People decide to leave this world because they do not feel hope that their pain will ever be addressed by caring individuals who stay with them simply because they can, and want to, people who value every individual they come to know through serendipity.


Dr. George Patrin
Founder, Serendipity Alliance Healthcare Consultants
Pediatrician, Veteran, COL-Retired U.S.Army

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