The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) finds insufficient evidence to recommend for or against screening adolescents, adults, and the elderly for suicide risk, according to a final recommendation statement being published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Suicide is the 10th leading overall cause of death in the United States. Past studies estimated that 38 percent of adults (up to 70 percent of older adults) visited their primary care physician within one month of dying by suicide and nearly 90 percent of suicidal youths were seen in primary care during the previous year. As such, researchers for the USPSTF considered whether screening all adolescents, adults, and older adults in the primary care setting for risk factors for suicide would be effective. A systematic review of published research showed that current evidence is insufficient to make a recommendation for or against screening.
However, health care professionals should consider identifying patients with risk factors or those who seem to have high levels of emotional distress and referring them for further evaluation. Some risk factors for suicide include having a mental health disorder, such as depression, schizophrenia, or post-traumatic stress disorder, having a substance abuse issue, or being socially isolated. American Indians or Alaskan natives also have higher rates of suicide. The Task Force continues to recommend that adults and adolescents be screened for depression, as evidence has shown that screening for depression coupled with available treatments is effective. This statement applies to adolescents, adults, and older adults without signs or symptoms of a current mental health disorder or history of mental illness.