Year: 2022 Source: Annals of Family Medicine. (2021). 19(6), 492-498. SIEC No: 20220088

PURPOSE Over 95% of patients who screen positive on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) suicide risk item do not attempt or die by suicide, which
could lead to unnecessary treatment and/or misallocation of limited resources. The present study seeks to determine if suicide risk screening can be meaningfully improved to identify the highest-risk patients.
METHODS Patients eligible to receive medical treatment from the US Department of Defense medical system were recruited from 6 military primary care clinics located at 5 military installations around the United States. Patients completed self-report measures including the PHQ-9 and 16 items from the Suicide Cognitions Scale (SCS) during routine primary care clinic visits. Postbaseline suicidal behaviors (suicide attempts, interrupted attempts, and aborted attempts) were assessed by evaluators who were blind to screening results using the Self-Injurious Thoughts and Behaviors Interview.
RESULTS Among 2,744 patients, 13 (0.5%) engaged in suicidal behavior in the 30 days after screening and 28 (1.0%) displayed suicidal behavior in the 90 days after screening. Multiple SCS items differentiated patients with suicidal behavior less than 30 days after screening positive for suicide risk. Augmenting the PHQ-9
suicide risk item with SCS items improved the identification of patients who were most likely to have suicidal behavior within a month of screening positive without sacrificing sensitivity.
CONCLUSION Among primary care patients who screen positive for suicide risk on the PHQ-9, SCS items improved screening efficiency by identifying those patients
who are most likely to engage in suicidal behavior within the next 30 days.