Despite our best and most persistent prevention efforts, suicidal emergencies still happen. Preparation is key to recognizing the different levels of suicide risk and responding to them effectively. This is where risk management comes in.
Risk-management starts from the moment you engage in a conversation with a young person about suicide. It involves:
- Assessing the level of risk. The purpose of a suicide risk assessment is to estimate a young person’s risk for suicide by carefully weighing the relevant risk and protective factors, as well as considering the significance of specific warning signs for suicide. To evaluate and understand a young person’s unique situation, most risk assessment approaches consider information relevant to their mental health, psychiatric and personal history, stressors (present, past, current), strengths and personal assets, past/present suicidal plans and behaviours, past/current suicidal ideation and available support networks1. While risk factors can help identify a person who may be at risk of suicide, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s nearly impossible to predict suicide with any certainty and it’s important to monitor risks periodically2,1.
- Intervening in response to the level of risk. When faced with a youth at risk of suicide, it’s crucial to know how to support this young person at the moment you are assessing their level of risk and also over time. This will ultimately depend on your role. Your intervention and treatment plan should correspond to the level of risk identified in the risk assessment1. Your role may be to bridge this youth to other services for ongoing intervention of their suicidal risk and/or underlying contributing factors.
- 1. a. b. c. d. White, J. (2013). Preventing Youth Suicide: A Guide for Practitioners. British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development. Retrieved from: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/managing-your-health/mental-health-substance-use/child-teen-mental-health/preventing_youth_suicide_practitioners_guide.pdf
- 2. Fawcett, J., Clark, D. C., & Scheftner, W. A. (1991). The assessment and management of the suicidal patient. Psychiatric Medicine, 9, 299-311.