Clinical tools and intervention options are available to the psychiatrist treating the suicidal patient. The severity of the patient’s psychiatric condition and the clinician’s experience and training will determine the interventions.
The Suicide Risk Screening Alert is a clinical tool that assists the psychiatrist and nonpsychiatric physician in identifying patients at risk for suicide during brief medication management appointments.
Here we address some of these problems of meaningless phrasing, empty shells, and template-distorted recording in an attempt to improve clinical documentation for both clinical care and risk management.
Suicide risk assessment is a core competency that all psychiatrists must have.1 A competent suicide assessment identifies modifiable and treatable protective factors that inform patient treatment and safety management.2 Psychiatrists, unlike other medical specialists, do not often experience patient deaths, except by suicide. Patient suicide is an occupational hazard. A clinical axiom holds that there are 2 kinds of psychiatrists: those who have had patients commit suicide—and those who will.
Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals leave voice mail messages on their office phones advising patients what to do in case of an emergency. But when a suicidal patient in crisis calls the psychiatrist and hears the recorded message, "If you have a 'true' emergency, go to your nearest emergency room or call 911," the patient's risk of suicide may increase.