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Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 1987 Nov;9(6):446-52.

The assessment of suicide risk in the general hospital.

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Department of Psychiatry, Rhode Island Hospital, Providence.


The assessment of suicide risk is a central activity of the general hospital psychiatrist for patients admitted following a suicide attempt and others who are identified after admission as being potentially suicidal. While biologic and psychosocial measures have some long-term predictive value, there is no valid measure to predict acute suicide risk. The lack of a valid measure does not, however, relieve the clinician of the obligation to perform an appropriate assessment. Pertinent appellate case law decisions not that the evaluation and record keeping must be "adequate," though no definition for adequate standards is provided. This paper presents issues that are considered so fundamental for suicide assessment that failure to obtain and record such information would potentially constitute inadequate practice. These areas include: the patient's statement regarding current suicidal ideation and planning, the presence or absence of delirium, psychosis and depression, what the patient says it makes sense to do, confirmation by a third party, and global formulation. The guidelines in this paper are presented with the intention of establishing the basis for optimal clinical care and for minimizing legal vulnerability in the evaluation of the potentially suicidal patient in the general hospital.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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