Research Shows New Assessment Tool May Predict Suicide Risk

Suicide is a major health concern in the United States and rates continue to rise.* The Joint Commission has issued a National Patient Safety Goal for suicide prevention designed to improve the quality and safety of care for individuals at high risk. Facilities and providers need to remain vigilant in their efforts to identify at risk patients and reduce the impact of  environmental hazards.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine tested a new tool that assesses depressive symptom severity and have concluded that it may accurately predict suicide risk. As reported by Medscape, the assessment generates a Prediction Risk Score (PRS) by combining information on the “severity and fluctuation of depressive symptoms” with “other relevant factors, such as younger age, mood disorders, childhood abuse, and personal and family history of suicide attempts.”

The result – based on variables that may already be reflected by the medical record – can provide physicians with an indicator of a “higher risk for suicidal behavior, with 87% sensitivity, which is far superior to currently available models.” The study’s lead author Nadine M. Melhem, PhD, notes that the “PRS is not only a valuable addition to the physician’s toolkit in predicting suicide risk, but it can also be done at little cost since the information is already being collected as part of standard evaluations.”

According to Melhem, “Prediction of suicidal behavior continues to be among the most challenging tasks in psychiatry.” She recommends that “clinicians monitor and treat depression symptoms over time to reduce their severity and fluctuation in high-risk young adults to reduce their risk for suicide attempt.”

The study, published in a recent issue of JAMA Psychiatry, is available here.

The Joint Commission outlines expectations for identifying and managing risk for suicide and self-harm. You can find them here.

* SOURCE: The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics’ Data Brief on Suicide Mortality in the U.S., 1999-2017