Universal screening needed to identify suicide risk in pediatric patients

July 28, 2021

Healthcare providers are in a prime position to identify teens at risk for suicide, yet many do not. A new study in the August 2021 issue of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety (JQPS), “Implementing Universal Suicide Risk Screening in a Pediatric Hospital,” details the development and implementation of a hospital-wide program to identify teens at elevated risk for suicide and to connect them with services.

The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed that 17.2% of high school students in the United States had seriously considered suicide in the past year, and nearly half of those students (7.4%) reported making a suicidal attempt.

Patients 12 years and older were screened for suicide risk using the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, which includes two emergency departments, three urgent care clinics and a number of ambulatory clinics. The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) was used in mental health areas.

During the first year of screening, 138,598 screens were completed, and 6.8% of screens were positive for elevated suicide risk. Any positive screens prompted a social worker to complete a more thorough assessment and determine next steps for those patients not being evaluated by a mental health care provider. Social workers also completed outreach to patients in the weeks following a positive screen.

The study authors concluded that “early involvement of stakeholders and hospital leaders and a robust response plan were essential to successful implementation of the suicide-screening program.”

Joint Commission report