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Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 1996 Nov;18(6):416-21.

Suicide and violence assessment in psychiatry.

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  • 1Psychiatric Emergency Service, Cambridge Hospital, MA 02139, USA.


Psychiatrists are increasingly expected to predict and prevent the suicidal and violent/homicidal impulses of their clients. This article reviews the current literature and research in these areas. While the debate continues on whether the clinician can successfully predict either violence or suicidal behavior in their patients, the preponderance of studies weighs in that predicting suicide and violence in the individual may not be possible currently given present knowledge. To compensate for forecasting limitations, conservative clinicians deliberately overpredict suicide or violence to help insure the safety of their patients and the greater communities in which they reside. In addition, clinicians need to perform thorough assessments and make logical clinical decisions that are in line with the perceived risks. Preventive measures for violence remain complex, but clinicians can maximize treatment effects by following specific intervention guidelines. Minimally, documentation concerning violence needs to focus on the rationale for why treatment interventions were or were not implemented. The chart does not require lengthy notations but should include a reasonable assessment of risk and the delineation of a prudent course of action.

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