Predicting future suicide: Clinician opinion versus a standardized assessment tool
Randall, J.R., Sareen, J., Chateau, D., & Bolton, J.M.
To compare the effectiveness of clinician prediction of risk to a standardized assessment of presentation status.
All adult psychiatry emergency department consults in the two main hospitals in Winnipeg, Canada, were assessed using a standardized form (n = 5,376). This form includes two risk scales for a gestalt physician assessment of risk (Suicide Likelihood scale, suicide Attempt Likelihood scale) and the Columbia Classification Algorithm of Suicide Assessment (C‐CASA). Regression determined whether assessments predicted future suicide attempts and deaths. The area under the curve (AUC) determined the prediction accuracy of these methods.
Although the regression results were significant, the AUCs were either moderate or poor. Clinician assessment was not effective at predicting deaths (AUC = .546, .36–.73), but moderately accurate at predicting future attempts (AUC = .728, .66–.79). C‐CASA assessment was moderately accurate at predicting both attempts and deaths (AUC = .666 and .678).
Clinician assessment does not significantly outperform a simple assessment of the occurrence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors during presentation to the emergency department. Behavior‐based standardized assessments should be further researched in this field. Assessment of suicidality at presentation using C‐CASA or similar assessment should be standard for psychiatric patients assessed in the emergency department.