No-suicide contracts: an overview and recommendations

Death Stud. 2002 Jan;26(1):51-74. doi: 10.1080/07481180210147.


No-suicide contracts, in their various forms, can deepen commitment to a positive action, strengthen the therapeutic alliance, facilitate communication, lower anxiety, aid assessment, and document precautions. Conversely, they can anger or inhibit the client, introduce coercion into therapy, be used disingenuously, and induce false security in the clinician. Research on no-suicide contracts (frequency surveys, assessments of behavior after contracting, and opinions of users) has limitations common to naturalistic studies, and is now ready for more rigorous methods. Mental health professions should be trained to deal with suicidal individuals, including how to use no-suicide contracts. Good contracts are specific, individualized, collaborative, positive, context-sensitive, and copied. However, they are not a thorough assessment, a guarantee against legal liability, nor a substitute for a caring, sensitive therapeutic interaction. No-suicide contracts are no substitute for sound clinical judgment.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Negotiating* / methods
  • Patient Participation
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Psychology / instrumentation*
  • Suicide / prevention & control*