Which tests are used to screen for suicidal behaviors?

Updated: Aug 29, 2019
  • Author: Stephen Soreff, MD; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Screening tests such as the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) depression module, particularly item 9, offer one possible avenue for detecting potential for self-destructive behavior. Researchers examined the association between thoughts of death or self-harm reported on item 9 of the PHQ and the risk of suicide attempt or suicide death over the following 2 years. They identified 509,945 adult outpatients completing 1,228,308 PHQ depression questionnaires during visits to primary care, specialty mental health, and other outpatient providers between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2012. The cumulative hazard of suicide death during 2 years ranged from approximately 0.04% among those responding "not at all" to having thoughts of death or self-harm to 0.19% among those responding "nearly every day" to the same question (item 9). They also reported that 39% of suicide attempts and 36% of suicide deaths within 30 days of completing a PHQ occurred among those responding "not at all" to item 9. Data concludes that within community practice, response to PHQ item 9 is a strong predictor of suicide attempt and suicide death over the following 2 years. Screening tests represent one clinical approach to identifying patients at suicide risk. [133]


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