Suicide screening at a pediatric practice is a first

Hear what Dr. Abernathy and Dr. Keel say about the test.

Dr. Ted Abernathy and Dr. Scott Keel of Pediatric & Adolescent Health Partners (PAHP) talk about the 5-question suicide screening test through the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that has shown remarkable results, identified preteens and teens with suicidal thoughts and referred them for life-saving mental health services. They have been using the screening test for over a year.

This screening had previously been used in Emergency Rooms to identify teens at risk for suicide and showed efficacy in doing so.

Based on results from the new questionnaire, 18.7% of the ED patients (98 of the 524) screened positive for suicide risk; most of whom had come to the ED with psychiatric concerns (84 of the 524). Elevated suicide risk was detected in 4.1% of the ED patients (14 of the 344) with medical/surgical concerns. Had it not been for the new screening tool, the suicide risk in these 14 patients most likely would have gone undetected. —NIMH

You might think, “These kids will never answer direct questions about suicide at their doctor visit.”

And you would be wrong.

This has been given to all patients 12 and above at Abernathy’s practice. Over the last 12 months, 17 of 136 patients tested positive for suicide risk. That’s 12%. The test is called ASQ and it’s just 4 questions.

Seventeen parents who were luckier than me now have a child that is still alive and getting treatment because of this suicide screening.

One teen at this practice said,

“Suicidal thoughts often occur at random times. It’s better to offend someone by asking them than not asking at all.”

At first, their staff was hesitant because it would mean more work. Then they decided they were going to make the commitment. The result has been more job satisfaction and efficiency in addition to uncovering kids with underlying suicide risk.

When I called and spoke with the staff at the front desk, you could tell they were proud of what they had accomplished as pioneers. No other practice to date had tried this screening. So far, the test has been well received by patients and their parents.

“No one deserves to die by suicide. The one thing that motivated our group more than anything in the world when we started talking about doing this was NOT how many are we going to catch? It was how are we going to deal with the ones we DON’T catch. And how are we going to handle the death of one of our patients by suicide? And that we couldn’t live with.”

I am currently working under the Charles Aubrey Rogers Fund at Beacon Tree Foundation to see that this screening is implemented in pediatric prevent suicide. Stay tuned.

4:46 version. 30 second version at the bottom of the page.

Links to NIMH findings:

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Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked TEDx speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my youngest son, Charles to substance use disorder and suicide June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Professional Speaker Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

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