To develop a brief screening instrument to assess the risk for suicide in pediatric emergency department patients.
A prospective, cross-sectional instrument-development study evaluated 17 candidate screening questions assessing suicide risk in young patients. The Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire served as the criterion standard.
Three urban, pediatric emergency departments associated with tertiary care teaching hospitals.
A convenience sample of 524 patients aged 10 to 21 years who presented with either medical/surgical or psychiatric chief concerns to the emergency department between September 10, 2008, and January 5, 2011.
Participants answered 17 candidate questions followed by the Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire.
Main Outcome Measures
Sensitivity, specificity, predictive values, likelihood ratios, and area under the receiver operating characteristic curves of the best-fitting combinations of screening questions for detecting elevated risk for suicide.
A total of 524 patients were screened (344 medical/surgical and 180 psychiatric). Fourteen of the medical/surgical patients (4%) and 84 of the psychiatric patients (47%) were at elevated suicide risk on the Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire. Of the 17 candidate questions, the best-fitting model comprised 4 questions assessing current thoughts of being better off dead, current wish to die, current suicidal ideation, and past suicide attempt. This model had a sensitivity of 96.9% (95% CI, 91.3-99.4), specificity of 87.6% (95% CI, 84.0-90.5), and negative predictive values of 99.7% (95% CI, 98.2-99.9) for medical/surgical patients and 96.9% (95% CI, 89.3-99.6) for psychiatric patients.
A 4-question screening instrument, the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ), with high sensitivity and negative predictive value, can identify the risk for suicide in patients presenting to pediatric emergency departments.