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Ask Suicide-Screening Questions

Ask Suicide-Screening Questions
Translations of the ASQ Screening Tool
Suicide Prevention Resources

Columbia Suicide Severity Rating

 

The Importance of Screening
2:02
Nurses
Physicians - Long Version
Physicians - Short Version

Youth Suicide Prevention - What to Say & Not to Say

Universal Screening in the Pediatric Emergency Department
 

The Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) tool is a set of four brief suicide screening questions that takes 20 seconds to administer.

Overview

Universal Screening in the Emergency Department video play

This video is provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement by NIMH.

Suicide Risk Screening Training for Nurses: How to Use the ASQ to Detect Patients at Risk for Suicide video play icon

This video is provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement by NIMH.

The Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) tool is a brief validated tool for use among both youth and adults. The Joint Commission approves the use of the ASQ for all ages. Additional materials to help with suicide risk screening implementation are available in The Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) Toolkit, a free resource for use in medical settings (emergency department, inpatient medical/surgical units, outpatient clinics/primary care) that can help providers successfully identify individuals at risk for suicide. The ASQ toolkit consists of youth and adult versions as some of the materials take into account developmental considerations.

The ASQ is a set of four screening questions that takes 20 seconds to administer. In an NIMH study, a “yes” response to one or more of the four questions identified 97% of youth (aged 10 to 21 years) at risk for suicide. Led by the NIMH, a multisite research study has now demonstrated that the ASQ is also a valid screening tool for adult medical patients. By enabling early identification and assessment of medical patients at high risk for suicide, the ASQ toolkit can play a key role in suicide prevention.

Background

Suicide is a global public health problem and a leading cause of death across age groups worldwide. Suicide is also a major public health concern in the United States, with suicide ranking as the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 48,000 individuals killed themselves in 2018. Even more common than death by suicide are suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts.

Screening for Suicide Risk

Early detection is a critical prevention strategy. The majority of people who die by suicide visit a healthcare provider within months before their death. This represents a tremendous opportunity to identify those at risk and connect them with mental health resources. Yet, most healthcare settings do not screen for suicide risk. In February 2016, the Joint Commission, the accrediting organization for health care programs in hospitals throughout the United States, issued a Sentinel Event Alert recommending that all medical patients in all medical settings (inpatient hospital units, outpatient practices, emergency departments) be screened for suicide risk. Using valid suicide risk screening tools that have been tested in the medical setting and with youth, will help clinicians accurately detect who is at risk and who needs further intervention.

About the Tool

Beginning in 2008, NIMH led a multisite study to develop and validate a suicide risk screening tool for youth in the medical setting called the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ). In 2014 another multisite research study was launched to validate the ASQ among adults. The ASQ consists of four yes/no questions and takes only 20 seconds to administer. Screening identifies individuals that require further mental health/suicide safety assessment.

For medical settings, one of the biggest barriers to screening is how to effectively and efficiently manage the patients that screen positive. Prior to screening for suicide risk, each setting will need to have a plan in place to manage patients that screen positive. The ASQ Toolkit was developed to assist with this management plan and to aid implementation of suicide risk screening and provide tools for the management of patients who are found to be at risk.

Using the Toolkit

The Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) toolkit is designed to screen medical patients ages 8 years and above for risk of suicide As there are no tools validated for use in kids under the age of 8 years, if suicide risk is suspected in younger children a full mental health evaluation is recommended instead of screening. The ASQ is free of charge and available in multiple languages.

For screening youth, it is recommended that screening be conducted without the parent/guardian present. Refer to the nursing script for guidance on requesting that the parent/guardian leave the room during screening. If the parent/guardian refuses to leave or the child insists that they stay, conduct the screening with the parent/guardian present. For all patients, any other visitors in the room should be asked to leave the room during screening.

What happens if patients screen positive?

Patients who screen positive for suicide risk on the ASQ should receive a brief suicide safety assessment (BSSA) conducted by a trained clinician (e.g., social worker, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, physician, or other mental health clinicians) to determine if a more comprehensive mental health evaluation is needed. The BSSA should be brief and guides what happens next in each setting. Any patient that screens positive, regardless of disposition, should be given the Patient Resource List.

The ASQ toolkit is organized by the medical setting in which it will be used: emergency department, inpatient medical/surgical unit, and outpatient primary care and specialty clinics. For questions regarding toolkit materials or implementing suicide risk screening, please contact: Lisa Horowitz, PhD, MPH at horowitzl@mail.nih.gov or Debbie Snyder, MSW at DeborahSnyder@mail.nih.gov.

Translations of the ASQ Screening Tool

Suicide Prevention Resources

Clinical Pathways

Youth

Adults

Other Resources

 

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