Suicide attempts can be predicted, researchers say

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A significant portion of suicidal people can be identified and referred to mental health specialists in order to help prevent suicide attempts, researchers reported Tuesday.

Mental health experts have focused intently on how to lower the nation’s suicide rate in all age groups. However, a major obstacle to the efforts has been the lack of a scientifically validated tool to assess suicidal behavior and suicide risk.

In a paper published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Columbia University researchers said their tool -- the Columbia Suicide Rating Scale -- can help predict suicidal behavior and suicide attempts.


The study examined 124 teens who had attempted suicide, 312 teens diagnosed with depression and 237 adults who came to a hospital emergency room with psychiatric problems. Patients were rated for suicide risk before they received mental health treatment and were followed for 24 weeks.

Researchers found that for every one standard-deviation increase in the level of lifetime suicidal ideation (thinking about suicide) the odds of attempting suicide during the study period increased by about 45%.

“Prevention depends upon appropriate screening and identification,” the lead author of the paper and developer of the scale, Kelly Posner, said in a news release. “It’s about saving lives and directing limited resources to the people who actually need them.”

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