Current practices of suicide risk management protocols in research
Vannoy, s., Whiteside, U., & Unutzer, J.
Background Participant safety is an important concern in mental-health-oriented research. Investigators conducting studies in the United States that include potentially suicidal individuals are often required to develop written suicide risk management (SRM) protocols. But little is known about these protocols. It is possible that such protocols could serve as templates for suicide risk management in clinical settings. Aims To elucidate common (best) practices from mental health intervention researchers. Methods We conducted a systematic descriptive analysis of written SRM protocols. A convenience sample of studies funded by the United States' National Institute of Mental Health in 2005 were scanned to discover projects in which investigators were likely to identify and take responsibility for suicide risk in their participant pool. Qualitative methodology was used to create a checklist of tasks perceived to be operationally significant for insuring the safety of suicidal participants. The checklist was applied to all protocols to determine the variability of patient safety tasks across protocols. Results We identified 45 candidate studies, whereof 38 investigators were contacted, resulting in the review of 21 SRM protocols. Three main categories emerged: overview, entry/exit, and process. Overall, 19 specific tasks were identified. Task frequency varied from 7% to 95% across protocols. Conclusions The SRM checklist provides a framework for comparing the content of SRM protocols. This checklist may assist in developing SRM protocols in a wide range of settings. Developing guidelines and standard methodologies is an important step to further development of suicide prevention strategies. More research is necessary to determine the impact of SRM protocols on participant safety.