Potential Indications for Suicide Assessment



An award-winning clinical educator, psychiatrist Dr. Gregg Gorton has lectured and taught about the sensitive process of suicide assessment. Dr. Gregg Gorton recently joined the faculty at Temple University to share his skills with a new community.

When a mental health clinician believes a client is in danger of ending his or her own life, a suicide assessment may be indicated. Such indications may make themselves known through directly verbalized suicidal intent or verbal hints that the patient’s life may ending in the near future. Clinicians may also take their cues from a mental health history that includes extended periods of depression, feelings of hopelessness, or prior attempts at suicide.

A client’s immediate presentation may also indicate suicide ideation, particularly when they exhibit behaviors that include isolation and loss of function. By contrast, clients with depression may be considering suicide if they appear to have experienced a rapid and unexplained shift in outlook and are claiming to be suddenly feeling well. Many such clients do not disclose suicidal intent and thus need the clinician to ask if they have had any suicidal thoughts or plans. If the answer is anything other than a definite negative, the clinician should gather more details and assess the need for intervention.