Routinized Assessment of Suicide Risk in Clinical Practice: An Empirically Informed Update

J Clin Psychol. 2015 Dec;71(12):1186-200. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22210. Epub 2015 Aug 19.


Objective: Empirically informed suicide risk assessment frameworks are useful in guiding the evaluation and treatment of individuals presenting with suicidal symptoms. Joiner et al. (1999) formulated one such framework, which has provided a concise heuristic for the assessment of suicide risk. The purpose of this review is to ensure compatibility of this suicide risk assessment framework with the growing literature on suicide-related behaviors.

Methods: This review integrates recent literature on suicide risk factors and clinical applications into the existing model. Further, we present a review of risk factors not previously included in the Joiner et al. (1999) framework, such as the interpersonal theory of suicide variables of perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belongingness, and capability for suicide (Joiner, 2005; Van Orden et al., 2010) and acute symptoms of suicidality (i.e., agitation, irritability, weight loss, sleep disturbances, severe affective states, and social withdrawal).

Results: These additional indicators of suicide risk further facilitate the classification of patients into standardized categories of suicide risk severity and the critical clinical decision making needed for the management of such risk.

Conclusions: To increase the accessibility of empirically informed risk assessment protocols for suicide prevention and treatment, an updated suicide risk assessment form and decision tree are provided.

Keywords: standardized care; suicidal behavior; suicidal ideation; suicide; suicide risk assessment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Suicide*