How is suicide risk assessed?

Updated: Jul 26, 2021
  • Author: Stephen Soreff, MD; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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A clear and complete evaluation and clinical interview with regard to the following are used to determine the need for suicide intervention:

  • Suicidal ideation - Determine whether the person has any thoughts of hurting himself or herself

  • Suicide plans - If suicidal ideation is present, the next question must be about any plans for suicidal acts; the general formula is that more specific plans indicate greater danger

  • Purpose of suicide - Determine what the patient believes his or her suicide would achieve; this suggests how seriously the person has been considering suicide and the reason for death

  • Potential for homicide - Any question of suicide also must be coupled with an inquiry into the person's potential for homicide

  • Protective factors - Work with the patient to identify "reasons for living." Ask about personal relationships, future events, long-term goals, etc.

  • "What would you do if you feel suicidal?"

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