Why Suicide Risk Assessment Still Matters

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Both public awareness of suicide and professional efforts directed at suicide prevention have increased considerably in recent years. Unfortunately, rates of death by suicide have remained relatively stable over the past decade despite these enhanced efforts. Some have argued that “suicide risk assessment doesn’t work” and have called into question the utility of devoting clinical time and energy to risk assessment. In this column, the authors first present an overview of the argument against suicide risk assessment and the data supporting that argument, followed by an alternate argument as to why suicide risk assessment still matters. When properly performed in concert with patient-centered mental health care, suicide risk assessment and management may add to the therapeutic and recovery-oriented benefits of care, independent of the ability to predict death by suicide.

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