Suicide is Common but Preventable

New Crisis Stabilization Unit Designed to Save More Lives

By Ronny Valenzuela, MD – David Lawrence Center Senior Physician, Acute Care Services –

Suicide is Common but PreventableAccording to the Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition, in 2010 suicide was the 9th leading cause of death in the State of Florida. Among adolescents and young adults – people who should be enjoying the prime of their lives – suicide was the 3rd leading cause of death for people ages 15-24 and the 2nd leading cause of death among adults ages 25-34. Sadly, on average 1 person every 17 minutes takes their own life.

The most common psychiatric diagnoses associated with suicide are major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse, anxiety disorder and personality disorder. Given that about 30 percent showed signs of depression during the three months before death and 80 percent left definite warning signs, suicide is preventable if appropriate care is accessed and concerned loved ones take action.

Some of the warning signs of suicide are:

  • worsening symptoms of existing psychiatric illness especially mood or psychosis
  • relational and job related stressors
  • expressing thoughts of self harm
  • difficulty accessing care
  • not being able to afford care and medications
  • refusing to seek care
  • worsening chronic medical illnesses
  • excessive risk taking behaviors

Any expression of self harm must be taken seriously and brought to the attention of a health care provider. If you feel someone is suicidal, call 911 or, if they will come with you voluntarily, bring them to the David Lawrence Center Crisis Stabilization Unit, Collier County’s only “mental health emergency room”. Being empathetic, not leaving the individual alone and engaging them in conversation until help arrives can help the suicidal individual. Access to guns, dangerous devices and pills should be eliminated.

David Lawrence Center, the Southwest Florida-based, not-for-profit leading provider of behavioral solutions, recently celebrated the grand opening of a new Crisis Stabilization Unit. The new unit, funded by $5 million in donations and grants, doubled the capacity to meet the critical mental health needs of our community, with room to expand in the future as community needs require. The goal was to create an innovative, world-class treatment facility where our friends, family and neighbors can receive expert mental health care in an environment that inspires and creates life-changing wellness and recovery. The 16,000 square feet of new and renovated space now includes a new, private, state-of-the-art therapeutic environment with larger common areas, private dining rooms, additional treatment space, outside lanais, more windows and light and a serene interior design with better efficiency, workflow, security, technology and increased safety.

This 28-bed locked, inpatient unit provides brief voluntary and involuntary evaluation and treatment for children and adults experiencing a mental, emotional or drug-related crisis who meet the criteria defined under the Florida Mental Health Act more commonly known as the Baker Act. The Baker Act is Florida’s law which allows judges, licensed mental health professionals, physicians and law enforcement officers to initiate assessment and treatment for up to 72 hours if they are a danger to themselves or someone else. The Baker Act is used to bring individuals for involuntary examination when a risk exists. Besides suicide, there could be risk of homicide, self neglect, neglecting dependents, of being neglected by abuse or a medical risk where individuals do not comply with medical treatments.

While on the Crisis Unit, individuals stay for an average of 5 days and are given a comprehensive psychiatric and medical assessment while being safely monitored 24-hours-a-day, by a highly trained clinical team dedicated to providing exceptional, compassionate, wellness focused treatment services. This team of psychiatrists, nurses, case managers, clinicians, behavioral health technicians and peer specialists carry out a comprehensive, individualized treatment plan that includes medication management, wellness groups, pet therapy, individual therapy, medication education, discharge planning, referrals and follow up care – all designed to save lives and keep people mentally well. For more information, call 239-455-8500 or visit

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