The aim of this study was to develop a reliable self-report instrument (the Suicide History Self-Rating Screening Scale: SHSS) to identify individuals with a higher propensity for suicide in the near term. One hundred and twenty nine consecutive inpatients with mental illness completed the SHSS (a 16-item measure assessing death thoughts, suicidal ideation and behavior in the last 12 months and lifetime except in the last 12 months), the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview, the Beck Hopelessness Scale, and the Gotland Male Depression Scale. SHSS scores had high correlations with commonly used measures in the field of suicide risk assessment. The ROC curves indicated that the SHSS performed well in classifying cases based on their current suicide status (suicide attempt in the last 24–48 hours). The SHSS is a valid and reliable instrument for assessing suicide risk.