Year: 2023 Source: Archives of Suicide Research. (2023). 27(3), 922-937. DOI: 10.1080/13811118.2022.2084005 SIEC No: 20231675

Objective: The aim of this study was to: (1) determine the proportion of callers to a national helpline for suicide prevention who were evaluated to be at risk of suicide; (2) identify characteristics associated with being at risk; (3) determine the level of suicidal ideation among callers, as measured by a clinical scale, and compared to the general population.

Method: Data on all calls answered at the Danish helpline for suicide prevention during 2018-2019 were analyzed. These consisted of socio-demographic covariates and items related to suicidality, including the Suicidal Ideation Attribute Scale (SIDAS). Data on SIDAS for the general population derived from a survey. Being at risk of suicide, as evaluated by the counselors, was examined as outcome in adjusted logistic regressions.

Results: Among 42,393 answered calls, 24,933 (59%) related to personal concerns. Of these, 47% and 14% of callers, respectively, had suicidal thoughts and concrete suicidal plans, while 53% were evaluated to be at risk. Higher risks were found when issues related to self-harm, mental health problems, eating disorders, incest, physical health problems, substance abuse, or sexual assault were mentioned. In all 37% of callers who were administered the SIDAS scale were evaluated to be at high risk of suicide compared to 1.5% in the general population.

Conclusions: A substantial share of callers to a national helpline for suicide prevention were evaluated to be at risk of suicide, also when using a clinical scale. This emphasizes the potential for counselors to prevent suicidal behavior.

Highlights: More than half of callers reaching out to the helpline were evaluated to be at risk of suicide, and 37% were identified as being at high risk using SIDAS, a clinical scale. Being woman, of younger age, having a history of previous suicide attempt as well as experiencing problems related to self-harm, mental disorders, sexual assault, substance abuse, and physical health problems was associated with risk of suicide, as evaluated by counselors. This seemingly is the first study to compare clinical scores of helpline callers to those of the general population and significantly higher levels of suicidal ideation were found among helpline callers.