The prevalence of current suicidal ideation among urban primary care outpatients was assessed, and suicidal and non-suicidal patients were compared with regard to their demographic characteristics and their attitudes toward mental health screening. Twenty (3.3%) patients reported having thoughts of killing themselves. The patients who had suicidal ideation were significantly younger and more frequently divorced. Almost all (97.6%) of the patients indicated that their physicians should inquire about emotional health issues at some time, and the suicidal patients were nonsignificantly more likely to recommend inquiry about psychiatric symptoms at every visit (55.0% vs 37.0%, p < 0.11). Only half of the suicidal patients reported lifetime histories of mental health treatment. The majority (70.2%) of the patients believed that it would be easy to discuss mental health problems with their medical physicians. Among the patients who had previously received psychiatric treatment, the suicidal patients were nearly three times more likely to anticipate that it would be difficult or very difficult to talk to their physicians about psychiatric problems. In contrast, among the patients who had no history of mental health treatment, there was no association between suicidal ideation and anticipated discomfort in talking with their physicians about emotional health.