Dallas hospital becomes first to conduct universal suicide-risk screenings

Dallas' Parkland Memorial Hospital has become the first in the United States to implement universal mental health screenings to assess whether patients are at risk for suicide, according to a blog post from the Dallas Morning News.

Thus far, Parkland has screened more than 100,000 patients from its hospital and emergency department and more than 50,000 outpatient clinic patients. The screenings found 1.8 percent of patients are at high suicide risk and up to 4.5 percent are at moderate risk. Parkland based the screenings on the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale when talking to adult patients and the Ask Suicide Screening Questionnaire for patients between 12 and 17.

The hospital released the screening results to help raise awareness about suicide, the 10th leading cause of death in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Identifying the risk level early allows hospital officials to place those at the highest risk under one-on-one supervision, along with taking safety precautions and having a behavioral health clinician evaluate the patient. In the case of patients at moderate risk, Parkland puts them in touch with a psychiatric social worker, offering them the option of either same-visit counseling or a follow-up phone call to connect them with further resources and assistance.

"Experts know that suicidal crises tend to be brief," Celeste Johnson, Parkland's director of nursing in the hospital's psychiatric services, told the Morning News. "When suicidal behaviors are detected early, lives can be saved. Anecdotally, we know that even within the first few days of implementing the screening program, we were able to intervene with patients at high risk."

Research published in 2014 found hospitals could do far more to reduce the risk of suicide among patients, with most people who eventually died from suicide discharged from general hospitals rather than psychiatric ones, FierceHealthcare previously reported. A recent interprofessional care initiative improved outcomes among patients at risk for suicide, using guidelines and screening to cut readmissions among patients at risk for alcohol-related harm, suicide or delirium by 9 percent.

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