Evaluation and treatment of the suicidal patient.
ABSTRACT Evaluation and treatment of a suicidal patient are challenging tasks for the physician. Because no validated predictive tools exist, clinical judgment guides the decision-making process. Although there is insufficient evidence to support routine screening, evidence shows that asking high-risk patients about suicidal intent leads to better outcomes and does not increase the risk of suicide. Important elements of the history that permit evaluation of the seriousness of suicidal ideation include the intent, plan, and means; the availability of social support; previous suicide attempts; and the presence of comorbid psychiatric illness or substance abuse. After intent has been established, inpatient and outpatient management should include ensuring patient safety and medical stabilization; activating support networks; and initiating therapy for psychiatric diseases. Care plans for patients with chronic suicidal ideation include these same steps, as well as referral for specialty care. In the event of a completed suicide, physicians should provide support for family members who may be experiencing grief complicated by guilt, while also activating their own support networks and risk management systems.