Session: Screening for Suicide Risk: Time to Ask Questions (Society for Social Work and Research 20th Annual Conference - Grand Challenges for Social Work: Setting a Research Agenda for the Future)

3 Screening for Suicide Risk: Time to Ask Questions

Thursday, January 14, 2016: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Meeting Room Level-Meeting Room 16 (Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel)
Cluster: Mental Health
Symposium Organizer:
Lisa Horowitz, PhD, MPH, National Institute of Mental Health, NIH
In the time it takes to complete this symposium, 8 people in the US will have killed themselves and dozens more will make a suicide attempt. Suicide is an international public health threat affecting upwards of 800,000 people worldwide each year. In the U.S., Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in adults, and the second leading cause of death for youth. More than 41,000 adults and 5,200 youth ages 10-24 died by suicide in 2013. Early detection of suicide risk is a critical suicide prevention strategy. The majority of individuals who have killed themselves visited a healthcare provider within months prior to their death, indicating that the medical setting is uniquely positioned to capture patients at risk. Adult and pediatric medical patients are at elevated risk for suicide. According to data from the US Joint Commission (JC), approximately 25% of hospital suicides occur in non-behavioral health units. In 2010, the JC recommended suicide screening in the medical setting; yet validated screening questions and guidelines for implementation are lacking. There is little agreement about the best method to identify patients at elevated risk for suicide, or if suicide risk screening should even be included as standard of care. Utilizing instruments designed to detect suicide risk in psychiatric patients poses various challenges and hardships in the medical setting. Research focused on developing site- and population-specific tools is needed.

Moreover, once a patient is found to be at risk for suicide, the “now what?” may be the most important part of suicide prevention. What should the clinical response be when a patient screens positive for suicide risk? How can Social Workers on the frontlines of this public health threat position themselves in the medical setting?  This symposium will discuss suicide risk in medical settings, focusing on three topics: 1)adult medical inpatients, 2) pediatric medical inpatients and 3) implementation of suicide risk screening in the pediatric primary care clinic. How clinicians and researchers view screening and how they manage the clinical implications of positive screens will be discussed. The utility of screening for suicide risk has been both supported and challenged in the medical setting and warrants further discussion. The audience will be invited to participate in what we hope will be a constructive conversation about the strengths and pitfalls of suicide screening in medical settings.

* noted as presenting author
Screening Adult Medical Inpatients for Suicide Risk
Deborah J. Snyder, MSW, National Institute of Mental Health
See more of: Symposia