How Clinicians Incorporate Suicide Risk Factors Into Suicide Risk Assessment

Crisis. 2021 Mar;42(2):100-106. doi: 10.1027/0227-5910/a000694. Epub 2020 May 19.


Background: The literature has focused on explicit communications of suicidal ideation, although such communications are infrequent and less overt symptoms are comparable indicators of suicide risk. Aims: Our aim was to understand how clinicians consider inexplicit suicide risk factors in assessments of risk. Method: A national sample of 75 psychiatric crisis clinicians were provided with three vignettes, which varied in nine variables related to suicide risk. Clinicians rated imminent suicide risk and identified an appropriate level of care for each hypothetical patient. Results: Prior suicide attempt, intent to die, presence of a suicide plan, desire to die, hopelessness, burdensomeness, and passive suicidal ideation (defined as a combination of hopelessness, burdensomeness, desire to die, and anhedonia) significantly impacted risk perception while depression and anhedonia did not. Level of care was significantly associated with passive suicidal ideation, suicide plan, desire to die, and hopelessness. Limitations: Limitations of the study include its small sample size, experienced clinicians, and reliance on hypothetical patients. The study design did not allow for all variables to be compared against one another. Conclusion: Clinicians considered less overt risk factors for suicide when assessing risk. Future research should examine whether this knowledge is applied in real-life scenarios and if less experienced clinicians equally consider these risk factors.

Keywords: passive suicidal ideation; suicide assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide, Attempted*