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Suicide Checklist Spots People at Highest Risk
Date:11/8/2011

By Lisa Esposito
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 8 (HealthDay News) -- The latest rating scale to determine a person's risk of committing suicide might be better than other such scales at spotting people in most urgent need of help, researchers report.

The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) was developed eight years ago and is already used by clinicians, emergency responders and others. The new study, appearing online Nov. 8 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, backs its use with new evidence.

Researchers who created the scale weighed its scientific validity against the Columbia Suicide History Form, on which the newer scale builds, and the Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation, which is considered the gold standard of assessment tools, said study author Kelly Posner, director of the Center for Suicide Risk Assessment at Columbia University.

A big difference, Posner said, is that the C-SSRS measures a wider range of potentially suicidal behaviors.

"In the past, people would [only] have asked about suicide attempts," Posner said, adding that "the scale identified a range of behaviors -- preparatory behaviors -- writing a will, buying a gun. Now we're getting at these things. [A person] with just one behavior is eight to 10 times more likely to end their life."

"Suicidal ideation" means talking or thinking about killing yourself. The scale has five degrees of ideation, ranging from "wish to be dead" to "active suicidal ideation with specific plan and intent."

"The Beck scale only looks at ideation and the Columbia History only looks at behavior," while the newer scale rates both, Posner explained. "It more clearly delineates the types of thoughts we need to get at."

Posner said that assessing suicide risk should be part of any routine medical visit.

"I believe it should be, with 50 percent of people [who commit suicide] seeing their primary care physician within the
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