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Why Suicide Risk Assessment Still Matters

WORTZEL, HAL S., MD; NAZEM, SARRA, PhD; BAHRAINI, NAZANIN H., PhD; MATARAZZO, BRIDGET B., PsyD

Journal of Psychiatric Practice®: November 2017 - Volume 23 - Issue 6 - p 436–440
doi: 10.1097/PRA.0000000000000263
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Both public awareness of suicide and professional efforts directed at suicide prevention have increased considerably in recent years. Unfortunately, rates of death by suicide have remained relatively stable over the past decade despite these enhanced efforts. Some have argued that “suicide risk assessment doesn’t work” and have called into question the utility of devoting clinical time and energy to risk assessment. In this column, the authors first present an overview of the argument against suicide risk assessment and the data supporting that argument, followed by an alternate argument as to why suicide risk assessment still matters. When properly performed in concert with patient-centered mental health care, suicide risk assessment and management may add to the therapeutic and recovery-oriented benefits of care, independent of the ability to predict death by suicide.

WORTZEL: Michael K. Cooper Professor of Neurocognitive Disease, Director of Neuropsychiatry, and Associate Professor in Psychiatry, Neurology, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Faculty for the Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship at the University of Colorado, Denver, CO; Director of Neuropsychiatric Services for the Rocky Mountain MIRECC at the Denver VA, Denver, CO

NAZEM: Clinical research psychologist with the Rocky Mountain MIRECC and Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, CO

BAHRAINI: Director of Education for the Rocky Mountain MIRECC and Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, CO

MATARAZZO: Director of Clinical Services for the Rocky Mountain MIRECC and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, CO

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Please send correspondence to: Hal S. Wortzel, MD, Rocky Mountain MIRECC, Denver VA, 1055 Clermont Street, Denver, CO (e-mail: hal.wortzel@ucdenver.edu).

Copyright © 2017 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.