Steps to Achieve Universal Suicide Screening in Emergency Departments: A Call to Action

J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv. 2018 Oct 1;56(10):21-26. doi: 10.3928/02793695-20180503-03. Epub 2018 May 9.


American individuals attempt suicide at alarmingly high rates of approximately 1.1 million times per year. Yet the United States has failed to adopt a systematic approach to suicide prevention, particularly via universal screening. Given the increasing number of individuals with suicidal ideation presenting to emergency departments (EDs), all patients who present to the ED for treatment should be screened, as opposed to only individuals with mental health complaints. In the current article, barriers to suicide screening in the ED are discussed, as well as strategies to move ED providers toward the goal of universal screening. The current article entreats nurses to be leaders in achieving universal screening and provides practical actions to begin the process. Specific recommendations for action include improving training, increasing lethal means assessment, and achieving compliance with The Joint Commission suicide screening guidelines. [Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 56(10), 21-26.].

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / education*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • Mental Health Services
  • Psychiatric Nursing
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control*