Suicide, Suicide Risk, Suicidality, Suicidal Ideation, Suicide Screening, Suicide Prevention

  • Epidemiology
  1. Incidence in U.S.
    1. Ages 5-11 years: 0.1 per 100,000
      1. Overall suicide Incidence has not changed for ages 5-11 between 1993 and 2012
      2. However Incidence has increased in black children, and decreased in white children
      3. Bridge (2015) JAMA Pediatr 169(7): 67307 [PubMed]
    2. Ages 10-74 years: 13 per 100,000
      1. Suicide rate increased 25% from 10.5 per 100,000 in 1999, to 13 per 100,000 in 2014
      2. Highest Suicide rate increase was for age 10-14 in females, and age 45-64 in males
  2. Most common methods of Suicide
    1. Children
      1. Suffocation by hanging (belt or electric cord)
    2. Adolescents and Adults
      1. Males: Firearms
      2. Females: Poisoning
  3. References
    1. Increase in Suicide in the U.S. from 1999 to 2014 (CDC)
    2. National Suicide Statistics (CDC)
  • Risk Factors
  1. Current mental status
    1. Agitation
    2. Anxiety
    3. Insomnia
  2. Biologic factors
    1. Age 20 to 24 and over age 65 years
    2. Native American or native alaskan
    3. Caucasian
    4. Male gender (especially elderly male)
  3. Psychiatric factors
    1. Psychotic symptoms
    2. Previous Suicide attempt within last 2 years
    3. Family History of completed Suicide
    4. Major Depression symptoms
      1. Anhedonia
      2. Hopelessness
      3. Insomnia
      4. Irritability
    5. Comorbid mental illness
      1. Substance Abuse
        1. Alcohol Dependence is associated with 9 fold increased Suicide Risk
        2. Acute Alcohol Intoxication substantially increases Suicide Risk
          1. One third of attempted Suicide patients drink Alcohol before attempt
      2. Major Depression
      3. Severe Anxiety Disorder (including PTSD)
      4. Bipolar Disorder
      5. Schizophrenia
      6. Borderline Personality disorder
  4. Social factors
    1. Solitary lifestyle or limited social support (e.g. divorced or widowed patient)
    2. Available means to carry out a Suicide plan (e.g. weapons in home)
    3. Stressful life event or recent acute psychosocial stressors ("tipping points")
      1. Relationship problems
      2. Financial or legal trouble
      3. Public humiliation or shame
    4. Suicide "contagion" in teenagers
      1. Completed Suicide in others (at school, in media), may increase Suicidality risk in others
      2. Highest risk among other children with depressed mood or social isolation
  5. Comorbid medical conditions
    1. Associated chronic medical condition
    2. Seizure disorder (3 fold higher risk)
    3. Medications associated with increased Suicidal Ideation
      1. See Suicidality Associated with Medications
  • Precautions
  1. Be alert for depressed mood in all patients
  2. Inquire about suicidal thoughts in depression
    1. Asking about Suicide does not increase its risk
    2. Guns
    3. Poisoning
    4. Hanging
  3. Protect the patient and staff during evaluation
    1. Keep patient under one-to-one observation during acute Suicidality evaluation
    2. Remove any items of potential self-harm (belts, shoelaces, sharp instruments)
    3. Secure purses and other belongings
    4. Emergency department patients change into scrub-like clothing
  • Evaluation
  • General
  1. Patient must be alert, Clinically Sober and cooperative for adequate evaluation
    1. Clinical sober patients should have normal coordination, cognition and a lack of emotional lability
      1. No specific number defines Clinical Sobriety
  2. Consider screening tools
    1. Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ Suicide Screening Test)
    2. Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS)
  3. Avoid confrontational approach
    1. Obtain patient comfort and trust first
    2. Maintain culturally sensitive approach
    3. Maintain good eye contact
  4. Sample questioning method:
    1. Have there been recent CHANGES with family, friends, home or work?
    2. What are your plans for the FUTURE?
    3. Do you ever lose HOPE with your current situation?
    4. What do you THINK ABOUT when feeling down?
    5. Do you ever consider Running AWAY from your problems?
    6. Have you had DEPRESSION, ANXIETY or OTHER mental illness in the past?
    7. Have you ever thought of HURTING yourself?
    8. Have you ever thought of KILLING yourself?
    9. How have you PLANNED to kill yourself?
    10. Have you PREPARED to do this?
    11. Has any FAMILY MEMBER attempted Suicide in the past?
    12. Are you CURRENTLY thinking about death or harming yourself?
    13. Do you use Alcohol or DRUGS?
    14. Do you make IMPULSIVE decisions or actions?
    15. Do you have WEAPONS, POISONS in PILLS at home you would use to harm yourself?
    16. Have you shared your self-harm thoughts with OTHERS?
    17. Do you have FRIENDS or FAMILY with whom you are close?
    18. What would happen to your FAMILY without you?
    19. What has PREVENTED you from committing Suicide?
  5. References
    1. Norris (2012) Am Fam Physician 85(6): 602-5 [PubMed]
    2. Stovall (2003) Am Fam Physician 68(9):1814-8 [PubMed]
  • Evaluation
  • Risk Assessment
  1. See Modified MSPS Suicide Risk Assessment (Modified SAD PERSONS)
  2. Static or Stable Risks
    1. History of mental illness (especially newly diagnosed)
    2. Chemical Addiction
    3. Personality Disorder
    4. Teenagers and the elderly (esp. white elderly males)
    5. Prior Suicide attempts (high risk)
    6. Family History of completed Suicide attempts
    7. Gay, lesbian, Transgender or bisexual youth
  3. High Risk Dynamic factors
    1. Prepared or attempted with highly lethal means (guns or hanging)
    2. Planned or rehearsed Suicide in advance
    3. Attempts to avoid discovery of suicidal plans (e.g. at remote location)
    4. Suicide note left to put affairs in order
    5. Anger in response to failed Suicide attempt
    6. Subjective belief in the high lethality of their attempt (regardless of the actual lethality)
  4. Moderate Risk Dynamic factors
    1. Use of limited number of medications or illicit substances in Suicide attempt
    2. Suicide attempt in location with high chance of discovery (or calling for help)
    3. Suicide note with overly manipulative or attention-getting language
  5. Low Risk Dynamic factors
    1. Small number of pills taken
    2. Suicide attempt in front of another person
    3. Glad that Suicide attempt was unsuccessful
  6. Protective Factors
    1. Strong social support system (friends, family)
    2. Expressed reasons for living
      1. Optimism about life
      2. Family responsibility (esp. to children)
  • Management
  1. Hospitalize imminently suicidal patients
    1. High risk dynamic factors present (see above)
    2. Attempt was violent, near-lethal or premeditated
    3. Persistent plan or intent is present
    4. Limited family or social support or unstable living situation
    5. Impulsive behavior, severe Agitation, Psychosis, poor judgement or refusing help
    6. Alterered mental status (acute Delirium) requires additional workup and medical monitoring
  2. Evaluate patient home safety
    1. Patient has decision making capacity
    2. Patient has the ability for adequate self care
    3. Remove all weapons in the home, especially firearms (90% fatality rate)
      1. Store firearms outside the home (locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition)
    4. Family and friend involvement is critical
    5. Patient will cooperate with treatment plan and implementation including close interval follow-up
  3. Treat underlying psychiatric illness
    1. See Depression Management
    2. Treat Substance Abuse
    3. Initiate psychological counseling with rapid referral to outpatient psychiatric care
  4. Establish an outpatient printed safety plan
    1. Contrast the Safety Plan with the "contract for safety" which is no longer recommended
    2. Recognize Suicide warning signs
    3. Identify coping strategies
    4. Crisis contacts (family or mental health)
    5. Form Template
  • Prevention
  1. Talk about Suicide with children, teenagers and adults
    1. Talking about Suicide does not increase its risk
  2. Family members and friends should be aware of the warning signs of Major Depression and Suicidality
    1. Social isolation or withdrawn
  3. Review safety plans for Suicidality (see above)
    1. Safe places with school, family or friends
    2. Emergency department evaluation
    3. Suicide Hotline
  • Resources
  1. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  2. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    2. Phone: 800-273-TALK
  3. Suicide Prevention Resource Center
  4. Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS)
  5. Crisis Text Line
    1. Text "HOME" to 741741