How is a suicidal patient diagnosed and treated?

Updated: Sep 25, 2018
  • Author: Stephen Soreff, MD; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Answer

Answer

Once it has been assured that the patient is safe, the reasons for the individual’s self-destructive behavior must be found. The diagnosis requires a complete psychiatric history and mental status examination. (See the chart below.)

Sentinel event (SE) suicides by diagnosis and meth Sentinel event (SE) suicides by diagnosis and method. Courtesy of the New York State Office of Mental Health.

The choice of treatment is dictated by the specific mental illness affecting the patient. Talking therapies can help, and in many instances, medication can alleviate symptoms of mental illness. However, despite intervention, if the patient does die by suicide, a number of steps can and should be undertaken for the patient's family, other patients, the staff, and the therapist.


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