Suicide Screening

Jaclyn Nguyen , Paul Nestadt, M.D.


  • Suicide is defined as "death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with an intent to die as a result of the behavior"[1].
    • In 2010, suicide was the tenth-leading cause of death in the U.S.[2] 
  • Suicide screening is "a procedure in which a standardized instrument or protocol is used to identify individuals who may be at risk for suicide"[3].
  • There can be universal or selective suicide screening.
    • Universal screening is applied to an entire population regardless of whether they are thought to be at higher risk or not, e.g. every patient visiting a primary care office.
    • Selective screening is applied to members of a group that research has shown to be at a higher than average risk for suicide, e.g. only patients with depression.
  • In contrast, suicide assessment usually follows a positive screen. It can be typically defined as "a more comprehensive evaluation done by a clinician to confirm suspected suicide risk, estimate the immediate danger to the patient, and decide on a course of treatment"[3].

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Last updated: December 8, 2019