Telehealth During COVID-19: Suicide Prevention and American Indian Communities in Montana

Zachary Pruitt, Kate P. Chapin, Haley Eakin, Annie L. Glover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Public health measures that prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing, may increase the risk for suicide among American Indians due to decreased social connectedness that is crucial to wellbeing. Telehealth represents a potential solution, but barriers to effective suicide prevention may exist. Materials and Methods: In collaboration with Tribal and Urban Indian Health Center providers, this study measured suicide prevention practices during COVID-19. A 44-item Likert-type, web-based survey was distributed to Montana-based professionals who directly provide suicide prevention services to American Indians at risk for suicide. Descriptive statistics were calculated for survey items, and Mann-Whitney U tests examined the differences in telehealth use, training, skills among Montana geographic areas, and barriers between providers and their clients/patients. Results: Among the 80 respondents, two-thirds agreed or strongly agreed that American Indians experienced greater social disconnection since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Almost 98% agreed that telehealth was needed, and 93% were willing to use telehealth for suicide prevention services. Among current users, 75% agreed telehealth was effective for suicide prevention. Over one-third of respondents reported using telehealth for the first time during COVID-19 pandemic, and 30% use telehealth at least "usually"since the COVID-19 pandemic began, up from 6.3%. Compared with their own experiences, providers perceive their American Indian client/patients as experiencing greater barriers to telehealth. Discussion: Telehealth was increasingly utilized for suicide prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic. Opportunities to improve telehealth access should be explored, including investments in telehealth technologies for American Indians at risk for suicide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-333
Number of pages9
JournalTelemedicine and e-Health
Volume28
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Keywords

  • suicide prevention
  • telehealth
  • telemedicine
  • vulnerable populations

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