Suicide Prevention in Youth and Young Adults
Communicating With Families Saves Lives
A Checklist for Health Providers and Mental Health Practitioners
Created by the Oregon Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Rationale and Scope:
Oregon's suicide rate in 2010, at 15.2 per 100,000 persons, was 35% above the national average. The rate in 2010 among Oregon males ages 20-24 was 22.6 per 100,000. Suicide ranks as the second leading cause of death in Oregon among youth ages 10-24. Suicide claims more lives each year nationally than homicide, HIV/AIDS, or auto accidents. On average, 45% of all suicide victims nationally had contact with primary care providers within one month of taking their own lives.
Communication between primary care providers and/or mental health practitioners and family members of patients seeking treatment for mental illness improves the quality of care provided to these patients, reduces the risk of suicide and self-harm behaviors, and encourages the use of resources to improve overall outcomes for these patients. While confidentiality is a fundamental component of a therapeutic relationship, it is not an absolute, and the safety of the patient overrides the duty of confidentiality. Misunderstandings by clinicians about the limitations created by HIPAA, FERPA, and state laws for preserving confidentiality of patients has caused unnecessary concern regarding disclosure of relevant clinical information. Communication between providers, patients, and family members/identified significant others needs to be recognized as a clinical best practice and deviations from this should occur only in rare and special circumstances.
This checklist is intended for use by primary care providers, emergency department staff, and any professional providing mental health treatment, to include, but not be limited to, family physicians, general practitioners, pediatricians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, social workers, counselors, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychiatrists. If your professional organization does not have a preferred suicide risk assessment protocol, please see page 8 of the document.