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Cleveland Clinic Study Finds Suicide-Related ER Visits Down During Ohio's 'Stay at Home' Order

Photo of the Cleveland Clinic's Miller Family Pavillion
The data shows that psychiatric visits to the emergency room are down 28 percent, and visits related to suicide are down 60 percent. Dr. Baruch Fertel says anyone in crisis should come to the ER for help, instead of waiting.

Cleveland Clinic researchers are reporting in a new study that suicide-related emergency room visits have fallen during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Clinic’s Director of Operations and Quality Improvement Officer for Emergency Services is Dr. Baruch Fertel. He says, compared to last year, psychiatric visits are down 28 percent, and visits related to suicide are down 60 percent. He says the reason could be that many people are putting off care.

But Fertel says -- with the isolation many people have felt during Ohio’s stay-at-home orders -- it’s important to pay attention to loved ones who are experiencing mental health challenges.

“Check in on them. Make sure they’re okay. Ask them if they need help. Ask them how they’re coping [and] how they’re dealing with it.”

Fertel adds that the expansion of telemedicine during the pandemic might be one outlet for patients struggling with mental health issues. But he cautions that anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should come to the ER right away.

“Where are these people going? Are these people not seeking help? Are these people thinking, ‘oh, my problems pale in comparison to the other things that are going on in the world’? And the message we’d like to tell them is, ‘no. If you’re feeling thoughts of hurting yourself – or you’re not feeling well emotionally – seek help [and] seek care.’ It’s important not to brush it under the rug.”

The data looked at behavioral health visits over the course of a month at 20 Cleveland Clinic ER’s. The study appears in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. While a Kent State student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.