Mental Health Professionals' Suicide Risk Assessment and Management Practices: The Impact of Fear of Suicide-Related Outcomes and Comfort Working With Suicidal Individuals

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Abstract

Background: Approximately 20% of suicide decedents have had contact with a mental health professional within 1 month prior to their death, and the majority of mental health professionals have treated suicidal individuals. Despite limited evidence-based training, mental health professionals make important clinical decisions related to suicide risk assessment and management. Aims: The current study aimed to determine the frequency of suicide risk assessment and management practices and the association between fear of suicide-related outcomes or comfort working with suicidal individuals and adequacy of suicide risk management decisions among mental health professionals. Method: Mental health professionals completed self-report assessments of fear, comfort, and suicide risk assessment and management practices. Results: Approximately one third of mental health professionals did not ask every patient about current or previous suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Further, comfort, but not fear, was positively associated with greater odds of conducting evidence-based suicide risk assessments at first appointments and adequacy of suicide risk management practices with patients reporting suicide ideation and a recent suicide attempt. Limitations: The study utilized a cross-sectional design and self-report questionnaires. Conclusion: Although the majority of mental health professionals report using evidenced-based practices, there appears to be variability in utilization of evidence-based practices.

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