Lethal means safety is an effective suicide prevention strategy with demonstrated results at the population level, yet individual-level uptake is less well understood.
Using automated data extraction methods, we conducted an investigation of electronic health records from psychiatric emergency service (PES) patients from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2017 at a busy urban medical center in the Pacific Northwest. At each PES mental health evaluation, every patient received a Suicide Risk Assessment during which providers used an electronic template with standardized fields to record lethal means access and other suicide risk factors.
We assessed 32,658 records belonging to 15,652 patients. Among all visits, 69.9% (n = 22,824) had some documentation of lethal means assessment. However, 54.1% (n = 17,674) of all visits lacked some or all potential documentation detail. Additionally, among 59.6% of visits in which a patient had documented access to lethal means, the specific means available were not indicated. Across the twenty risk and demographic factors we assessed, the prevalence of documentation did not vary by any given risk factor and only varied minimally by age and race. For example, when comparing visits which indicated family history of suicide to those which indicated no family history of suicide, the prevalence ratio was 0.99 (95% CI: 0.95, 1.03).