Purpose of review
This paper reviews epidemiology, psychiatric comorbidities, risk factors, warning signs, screening measures, and issues related to screening for suicide risk in the pediatric emergency department and acute care settings.
For the first time in over a decade, rates of adolescent suicide are increasing. A recent review found physician gatekeeper training to be one of only two effective prevention strategies. Limited methods exist to assess for suicide risk in pediatric acute care settings that are able to meet the demands and challenges presented in time-limited medical settings.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents. Although a prior suicide attempt is the single most important risk factor, affective, cognitive, family and peer factors also affect risk of completed suicide. Practitioners in the acute care and emergency department setting are well positioned to identify, assess, and appropriately refer these adolescents and their families. Screening instruments in this setting need to be accurate, brief, and relevant to patients, families, and providers. We propose a two-question algorithm that targets imminent risk for a suicide attempt. This type of screening also needs to be accompanied by hospital or community-based support systems for further assessment, intervention and follow-up.