Suicide Risk Can Be Intercepted in the Emergency Department, Study Finds

April 08, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark News

Medical Xpress

Universal screening for suicide risk in emergency departments (EDs) was shown to almost double the number of patients who were identified as positive for suicidal ideation or had attempted suicide, according to a new study from the University of Massachusetts Medical School that was just published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Following implementation, suicide risk screenings increased from 26 to 84 percent over five years, which increased the detection rate of suicide risk from 2.9 to 5.7 percent. “Our study is the first to demonstrate that suicide risk screening can be done in a busy ED during routine care,” said lead author Edwin Boudreaux. “The public health impact could be tremendous, because identification of risk is the first and necessary step for preventing suicide.” In addition, according to Boudreaux, “The patients we identified through screening received additional evaluation and intervention resources they otherwise would not have received. In fact, with screening we identified a subset of patients whose suicidality was serious enough to warrant psychiatric inpatient treatment. What would have happened to them if they had been discharged?” Ten percent of those who screened positive received inpatient treatment, and the other 90 percent were discharged with resources, such as a self-help safety plan, and lists and a wallet card with the numbers of local services and lifelines.

Spark Extra! For more information on screening and detection of people in EDs who are suicidal and what to do if someone screens positive, see Caring for Adults with Suicide Risk: A Consensus Guide for Emergency Departments.