Year: 2022 Source: BMC Pediatrics. (2022). 22, 389. SIEC No: 20220562

To understand how suicide management occurs within the primary care setting in terms of follow-up assessments and referral practices.

At an initial primary care visit, adolescents (aged 12–20 years old) completed electronic screening. Data were focused on youth who endorsed a suicidal risk item while completing screening at two Midwestern primary care clinics. Data were collected through retrospective chart reviews to analyze actions taken by the primary care physician at the youth’s initial visit and follow-up visit within the next 12 months.

At initial visits 200 adolescents endorsed a suicidal risk item and 39 (19.5%) were considered to be concerning by their primary care physician. The average age was 14.7 years old (SD ± 2.0). Seventy-two percent (n = 144) were female, and 65% (n = 129) identified as Black. At initial visits, significant differences between suicidal concern groups were found in reporting active suicidal ideation, past suicide attempts, those who were referred to behavioral health counseling, and those who had a diagnosis of depression. Interestingly, only 13% (n = 25) of all patients who endorsed the suicide item were asked whether or not there were weapons in their home and primary care providers asked only 7% (n = 13) of all patients whether they had a safety plan.

There was inconsistent follow-up for adolescents with a history of suicide concerns. At this time, national guidelines do not exist regarding primary care follow-up of youth with suicide concerns. Guidelines are a necessary precursor for practice improvement.