Protecting the Patient During Treatment

An inpatient setting might seem to be a completely safe place for a patient who is having suicidal thoughts. Sadly, more than 1,500 U.S. patients annually find a way to end their own lives while they are hospital inpatients. These deaths are particularly sad in that the patients were typically hospitalized as a suicide prevention measure in the first place.

In more than 70% of attempted inpatient suicides, the patients choose to hang themselves.

According to the Federal National Center for Patient Safety, over 50% of these hangings involved the use of bedding such as sheets, pillow cases, blankets, and mattress covers. These items are found in every patient’s room, and can be torn into strips or wound tightly to make effective, deadly ligatures.

At first it might seem that there are only two options to prevent patients from harming themselves with their bedding: having the patient watched all night, or depriving the patient of bedding altogether. Neither of these contributes to patient comfort or dignity, or to a welcoming, therapeutic environment.

Harm Reduction Solutions was founded to seek an alternative that provides patients with comfortable, dignified sleeping arrangements while reducing the risk of successful suicide attempts using bedding.

The design process examined the patient experience thoroughly, with the aim of making the patient’s bed a soothing, restful, and safe environment during mental health treatment. Harm Reduction Solutions kept in mind how much noise and sweating is caused by vinyl mattress covers and flimsy sheets. Sleep that is disrupted by an uncomfortable bed does nothing to contribute to effective therapeutic care.

The patented design of the Harm Reduction Solutions bedding combines suicide prevention with an attractive design. The bedding is made of thick, quilted materials that are difficult to tear. If the patient tried to roll and twist the quilted bedding, the result would be much thicker, and thus much less dangerous, than what a patient could make with typical hospital sheets and blankets. For all their strength, Harm Reduction Solutions bedding is soft and comfortable for the patient. The caseless pillows provide no bed linen at all with which a patient could try to harm him or herself.

All of these safety features are incorporated into bedding that looks much like ordinary bedding. There are no institutional-looking features that could stigmatize the patient. His or her dignity is fully respected while providing the suicide prevention measures that he or she needs. The blanket layer and pillows are available in blue, green, or a pale yellow, and the blanket layer has a contrasting underside, to provide an inviting environment to promote a restoration to wellness.

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Jason Siebuhr

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