Families, Friends, and Neighbors

Asking About Suicide Is Vital for Suicide Prevention

The Columbia Lighthouse Project believes everyone has a role in helping to prevent suicide, including families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. That’s why we’ve made the Columbia Protocol usable by anyone, anywhere, to assess someone’s risk for suicide and help save a life.

In the U.S. there’s an average of more than 110 suicides a day. More people die by suicide than in traffic accidents.

Worldwide, suicide takes a life every 40 seconds and is responsible for more deaths than war, homicide, and natural disasters combined.

In addition to using the protocol itself to assess someone’s risk, Individuals and community groups also can make a difference by advocating for use of the Columbia Protocol in structured settings. For example, PTAs can encourage schools to assess students. In addition, advocates can encourage the scale’s use by emergency medical personnel, police, and firefighters; healthcare providers; correctional facility personnel; and military populations.

The Columbia Protocol Helps People Save Lives

The good news is that suicide is preventable, by identifying people who are at risk and getting them the help they need. With the Columbia Protocol — also known as the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) — parents can assess and protect their children; grown children can ask their ill or aging parents; and siblings and friends can look out for each other. The Columbia Protocol can be used by support group members, community leaders, homeless shelter workers, clergy and other leaders and members of faith-based groups, and anyone else who may be in a position to ask.

Whether using the Columbia Protocol or advocating for its use, here are some key points to keep in mind about the value of this risk assessment tool. The Columbia Protocol is:

  • Simple. Ask all the questions in a few moments or minutes — with no mental health training required to ask them.
  • Free. The protocol and the training on how to use it are available free of charge for use in community and healthcare settings, as well as in federally funded or nonprofit research.
  • Evidence-supported. An unprecedented amount of research has validated the relevance and effectiveness of the questions used in the Columbia Protocol to assess suicide risk, making it the most evidence-based tool of its kind.
  • Effective. Real-world experience and data show that the protocol has helped prevent suicide.
  • Universal. The Columbia Protocol is suitable for all ages and special populations in different settings and is available in more than 100 country-specific languages.
  • Efficient. Use of the Columbia Protocol redirects resources to where they’re needed most. It reduces unnecessary referrals and interventions by more accurately identifying who needs help — and it makes it easier to correctly determine the level of support a person needs, such as patient safety monitoring procedures, counseling, or emergency room care.