A team of Welsh academics has developed a new method to support healthcare professionals in making clinical decisions about people who may be at risk for suicide.
It is no small matter: suicide is the twelfth cause of death in the world. In 2020 it is estimated to have caused 1.5 million deaths. A tool that allows health professionals to be able to express a structured professional judgment about who might attempt suicide is of crucial importance.
Suicide: you need to understand what happens, and know how to intervene
Researchers from the universities of Swansea and Cardiff have put together the Risk of Suicide Protocol (RoSP) which guides a professional in examining 20 aspects of a person's life who may be at risk of suicide. They can then formulate what the person's problems are and how they can help them.
In two studies, the team first examined whether RoSP could identify suicides among the accidental deaths of people known to mental health services. Second, whether he could determine who would attempt suicide in a nursing hospital for people at high clinical risk.
Research, just published from the leading international magazine Frontiers in Psychiatry, showed how effective RoSP is in both contexts.
A suicide "forecaster"
The teacher Nicola Gray, of the University of Swansea, was working with high clinical risk patients at the time of the study. He said: "The RoSP was born while we were training healthcare professionals on how to identify violence towards others in their patients. Doctors said they had even more clinical difficulties in identifying and managing patients' propensity to harm themselves."
By carefully reviewing the best practice guidelines we were able to put together a list of known risk indicators. Reasonably easy for clinicians to identify and predict suicide riskNicola Gray, University of Swansea
Caution is still needed
Professor Robert Snowden, of Cardiff University, says there is still a need for caution: "We will never detect all cases or prevent every suicide. Many people die from suicide without ever having seen a professional. However, we hope that the use of RoSP help those who are being treated by a professional mental health."
The RoSP can be a good means of monitoring environments such as emergency rooms, prisons, doctors' surgeries and other places where there may be people at risk of suicide.