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Suicide Risk Assessment Basics

Suicide Risk Assessment Basics - Departments & Programs, UW Medical Foundation, Patient Resources, Social Work Services Quick Guide, Social Work Manual, Mental/Emotional Health, Suicide


  1. Current Suicide Ideation
    1. Self reported risk. (How long can you go on as you are?)
    2. Ask in detail about suicide thoughts, plans, and preparations.
    3. Note specificity, availability, and lethality (SAL)
    4. Preparations for death (suicide note, giving away possessions, ect.)
    5. In assessing lethality of planned method, consider the patient's percepatientions of lethality, not just actual lethality).
  2. Prior Suicide Behavior
    1. History of previous attempatients is the best predictor of future attempatients or death, just as past violence is best predictor of future violence.
    2. Assess intent and lethality of previous suicide attempatients
    3. Ask about attempatients by family members and friends.
    4. Ask about completed suicides among family members and friends, the anniversary dates and patient's reaction to the death.
  3. Severity of Sympatientoms
    1. DSM IVR Diagnosis?
    2. Depression, agitation, impulsivity?
    3. Inability to sleep, eat, work, communicate?
    4. AODA
    5. Psychosis
  4. Current Stressors
    1. Important to judge this not by how you would feel under the circumstances, but what these problems mean to the patient.
    2. Help to organize an overwhelming mass of problems and feelings, in the client's eye, into something more manageable; prioritize the issues.
    3. Higher risk is person is single, widowed, separated or divorced.
    4. High risk if person is unemployed or unskilled.
    5. Financial stressors.
    6. Physical stressors/terminal illness.
  5. Strengths and Resources
    1. Internal (intelligence, social skills, help-seeking instinct, ability to problem solve).
    2. External (supportive family, friends, stable environment, employment, church, finances, health insurance, therapist, treatment program).
  6. Treatment Plan
    1. Inpatient
    2. Outpatient


Mental Health Policies (UWHC)