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ER screening tool could help identify youth at risk for suicide

It’s an alarming fact that the rate of suicides among young Americans has increased dramatically in recent years, rising by nearly 60% between 2007 and 2018 for those ages 10 through 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is also true that during a crisis related to mental health, hospital emergency departments are commonly where young people and their families go to seek immediate help. 

Depressed teen
(Source: Pixabay)

That’s why it is more important than ever to implement fast and effective universal screenings for suicide risk when people in that vulnerable age group are seen in the ER, say officials from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). 

They recently oversaw the development of a computerized screening questionnaire called CASSY (Computerized Adaptive Screen for Suicidal Youth). It consists of 11 questions on average, and can be personalized depending on individual responses to questions.

In recent trials, CASSY correctly identified 82.4% of youth who did attempt suicide in the three months following screening, and 72.5% who did not. The results suggest it could serve as a simple but effective tool for emergency care providers nationwide to detect youth suicide risk.

“No young person should die by suicide, which is why we have made bending the curve in suicide rates a priority area of research for our institute,” said Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of NIMH. “The CASSY screener represents an important advance in identifying those adolescents who are at risk for suicide, so they can be connected with the critical support services they need.”

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