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Journal of Psychiatric Practice:
doi: 10.1097/01.pra.0000442940.46328.63
COLUMNS: Law and Psychiatry

Therapeutic Risk Management of the Suicidal Patient: Stratifying Risk in Terms of Severity and Temporality

WORTZEL, HAL S. MD; HOMAIFAR, BEETA PhD; MATARAZZO, BRIDGET PsyD; BRENNER, LISA A. PhD

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Abstract

This column is the third in a series describing a model for therapeutic risk management of the suicidal patient. In the preceding column, we described augmenting clinical suicide risk assessment with structured instruments. In this column, we describe how clinicians can use the totality of available clinical data to offer a two-dimensional risk stratification that qualifies risk in terms of both severity and temporality. By offering two separate designations that reflect severity for both acute and chronic risk, conceptualizing and communicating a patient’s risk for suicide is accomplished in a more nuanced way, providing the level of detail necessary when working with high risk individuals, especially those struggling with chronic suicidal ideation. Formulations reflecting suicide risk need to be accurate and facilitate good clinical decision-making in order to optimally balance the principles of autonomy, non-maleficence, and beneficence. Stratifying risk in terms of both severity and temporality helps identify situations in which involuntary hospitalization is warranted, while also helping to minimize unnecessary admissions. Hence, two-dimensional risk stratification that addresses both acute and chronic risk for suicide is an essential component of therapeutic risk management of the suicidal patient. (Journal of Psychiatric Practice 2014;20:63–67)

Copyright © 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Inc.

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