Patients found to be at low risk of suicide may need nothing more at this time, or they may benefit from further mental health care, but the level of risk does not require focal attention during the visit.
Sometimes suicide risk screening tools pick up other mental health concerns such as anxiety, distress, PTSD, or angst that may not be related to current suicide risk. A patient may screen positive for suicide risk on a screening tool, and the clinician, after performing a risk assessment, determines that they are not at current risk.
Examples of low-risk scenarios include:
- A 17-year-old patient may answer that they “wished they were dead” on the screener. Upon further inquiry, the pediatric health clinician learns that they had no intention of killing themselves and had several strong protective factors. In this situation, the patient may still benefit from mental health care to support managing their stress, but they do not require an urgent mental health care evaluation. This patient can be given a referral to mental health resources for non-urgent therapy
- A 16-year-old patient may disclose a suicide attempt from 4 years ago. Upon further discussion, the pediatric health clinician may learn that the patient has received mental health treatment and did not have any recent ideation. This knowledge of a past suicide attempt would be important for the clinician in informing future care, but the patient would be deemed low risk at the current time
Provide Appropriate Care
- Determine if the patient might benefit from non-urgent mental health follow-up
- Send patient home with a mental health referral if indicated
- Provide parents, caregivers, and families with resources to support them:
American Academy of Pediatrics