Behavioral Health Care

Because suicide is closely linked to mental health and substance use disorders, behavioral health care providers play a key role in treating suicide risk and related behavioral health problems. Providers who work in health care settings like primary care practices and emergency departments are also essential to treating patients at risk for suicide. By offering patients high-quality suicide care, they can reduce suicide risk among some of the most vulnerable individuals.

Providers in other health care settings are also essential to treating patients at risk for suicide.

Why Address Suicide Prevention

  • Treating suicide risk directly, not just as a symptom of an underlying condition, is considered safe suicide care.
  • Inpatient hospitalization—often considered the first resort for patients at risk for suicide—is the most costly and restrictive option.

How Behavioral Health Care Providers Can Take Action

The best way to prevent suicide is to use a comprehensive approach that includes these key components: 

  • Train all staff in effective suicide care, the specific protocols to follow, and the delivery of collaborative suicide care
  • Create agreements to accept referrals from other health care providers (primary care, hospitals) 
  • Ensure safe transitions of care  

Learn More

  • To learn more about safe and effective care for suicide risk, visit the Zero Suicide website.
  • See the Recommended Resources below selected by SPRC personnel.
  • See All Resources Related to Behavioral Health Care for a full list of materials, programs, trainings, and other information available from SPRC. Use the filters on the left to narrow your results.
  • For more on other settings and groups, see our Settings and Populations pages.

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Recommended Resources

Zero Suicide website

This website provides information, resources, and tools for implementing Zero Suicide.

R3 Report Issue 18: National Patient Safety Goal (NPSG) 15.01.01 for suicide prevention

The Joint Commission realized that suicide rates have not improved over the past decade and has issued updated requirements in order to improve the quality and safety of care for those who are being treated for behavioral health conditions and those who are identified as high risk for suicide. The requirements include screening and assessment […]

Suicide Screening and Assessment

This SPRC resource presents two approaches to evaluating suicide risk and links to resources.

Reformulating suicide risk formulation: From prediction to prevention

This article presents a model for conducting context-based rather than categorical (high-medium-low) suicide risk assessments.  

Safety planning guide: A quick guide for clinicians

This quick guide for clinicians may be used to develop a safety plan – a prioritized written list of coping strategies and sources of support to be used by patients who have been assessed to be at high risk for suicide. The authors strongly recommend that the guide be used after reviewing the Safety plan […]

VA/DoD clinical practice guideline for assessment and management of patients at risk for suicide

This practice guideline was developed under the auspices of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Department of Defense (DoD).