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West J Emerg Med. 2012 Feb;13(1):41-50. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2011.6.6803.

Evaluation of an emergency department educational campaign for recognition of suicidal patients.

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  • 1University of Rochester Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry, Rochester, New York.



To evaluate the impact of a simple emergency department (ED)-based educational intervention designed to assist ED providers in detecting occult suicidal behavior in patients who present with complaints that are not related to behavioral health.


Staff from 5 ED sites participated in the study. Four ED staff members were exposed to a poster and clinical guide for the recognition and management of suicidal patients. Staff members in 1 ED were not exposed to training material and served as a comparator group.


At baseline, only 36% of providers reported that they had sufficient training in how to assess level of suicide risk in patients. Greater than two thirds of providers agreed that additional training would be helpful in assessing the level of patient suicide risk. More than half of respondents who were exposed to the intervention (51.6%) endorsed increased knowledge of suicide risk during the study period, while 41% indicated that the intervention resulted in improved skills in managing suicidal patients.


This brief, free intervention appeared to have a beneficial impact on providers' perceptions of how well suicidality was recognized and managed in the ED.

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