Asking About Suicide Is Vital for Healthcare and Suicide Prevention
Everyone involved in medical and behavioral healthcare can help prevent suicide and save lives, just by taking a few moments to ask the right questions. Studies confirm that, in many ways, healthcare providers are uniquely positioned to make a difference.
Nearly 50% of people who die by suicide see their primary care doctor in the month before their death.
Researchers found that about 25% of young adults have suicidal thoughts and approximately 9% carry out a suicide attempt if they have experienced at least one of the following medical conditions: asthma, arthritis, cancer, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, hypertension, gout, lupus, stroke, or thyroid disease. Another study found that 25% of people who die by suicide are seen in the emergency room for nonpsychiatric reasons in the 12 months prior to their death.
The Columbia Protocol Is Helping Healthcare Professionals Save Lives and Target Resources
Asking the right questions to determine suicide risk should be as routine as checking blood pressure — and, with the Columbia Protocol, it’s just as quick. The Columbia Protocol — also known as the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) — also helps optimize healthcare resources by directing people to the right level of care.
The Columbia Protocol is the ideal risk assessment tool for healthcare environments because it’s:
- Simple. Ask all the questions in a few moments or minutes — with no mental health training required to ask them. Anyone can do the asking: doctors, nurses, physician assistants, counselors, or other caregivers.
- 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 identify the level of support a person needs, such as patient safety monitoring procedures, counseling, or emergency room care.
- 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. This includes versions that provide ways of asking the questions of younger children and of people with autism, dementia, and other developmental or intellectual disabilities.
- 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.
- 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. For health/behavioral health care providers there is also no cost or license required to put the Columbia Protocol tools into your EHR/EMR.
“[The Columbia Protocol] allowed us to identify those at risk and better direct limited resources in terms of psychiatric consultation services and patient monitoring.”
Reading Hospital and Medical Center, Reading, Pennsylvania