Assessing Suicide Risk

Youth suicide remains a major public health concern of our time. Few things are more tragic than a young life cut short. Compounding the tragedy of youth suicide is the fact that suicide among young people is a permanent solution to impermanent difficulties or circumstances. And, it is preventable.

Identification of those young people who are at risk of making a suicide attempt is the key to prevention.

In 1994, Colby’s article Predicting Suicide Attempts Among Adolescents was published in prominent Psychiatry periodical of the time,  Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica.The article reports on the findings of a study of suicidal behaviour among Adelaide teens. The article examines the utility of an assessment methodology based on the teens’ acknowledgement of other behaviours in the spectrum of suicidality; including suicide thoughts, suicide plans, suicide threats and deliberate self-harm.

A key finding of the study was that it is possible to identify suicide attempters with a high degree of accuracy and non-attempters with a moderate degree of accuracy using a scoring methodology based on the young person’s answer to four simple questions about suicide thoughts, plans and threats, and deliberate self-harm.

Though long overlooked by public health organisations in this country, such is the worth of the assessment methodology reported in this article that it has recently been chosen for inclusion in the American Psychological Society’s PsycTESTS database.

If you are concerned that a young person you know may be at-risk of making a suicide attempt, support them to consult their general medical practitioner as soon as possible. The GP can conduct a preliminary assessment of suicide risk and refer on to a mental health specialist for a more comprehensive risk evaluation where they consider this to be necessary.

If you are a health practitioner or organisation and want to know more about the assessment methodology contained in Predicting Suicide Attempts Among Adolescents, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Colby at

About colbypearce

I am a practising Clinical Psychologist with twenty-seven years’ experience working with children and young people recovering from abuse and neglect. I am also an author and educator in trauma-informed, therapeutic caregiving. My programs are implemented in Australia and Ireland, and I am well-known for my practical and accessible guidance for caregivers and professionals alike.
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