Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Clinical researchers from Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, together with colleagues from elsewhere, have developed guidance to help clinicians identify and treat patients at risk of suicide.

Crowd of people blurred image

The alternative approach to clinical practice, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, was developed by health practitioners and suicide prevention experts, together with a service user.

The new guidance is intended to reduce risk through a person-centred strategy in which assessment is regarded as a therapeutic process which is aimed at identifying interventions to enhance well-being, together with an individualised safety plan developed collaboratively with the patient.

Professor Keith Hawton CBE, Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Centre for Suicide Research at Oxford University, and a lead author on the article, said:

'A substantial proportion of individuals who die by suicide each year have been suffering from mental illness. Therefore prevention of suicide is one key task of mental health practitioners, but traditionally this has been dominated by attempts to predict suicide risk. Our approach, which is more focussed on a therapeutic approach to addressing risk, should greatly improve patient care, with likely benefits for suicide prevention.'

Karen Lascelles, Nurse Consultant at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, and joint lead author of the article, said:

 

'This therapeutic and collaborative approach to patient safety can help clinicians, patients and patients' families gain a better understanding of when and why a patient might become vulnerable, and what the patient and those involved in their care can do to help keep them safe. It should be taught to clinicians during their training and in practice, and supported by organisations and regulators.'

Steve Gilbert, OBE, another author of the article, said:

 

'As a suicide attempt survivor of multiple episodes, I know all too well the heart-breaking agony of being told you are at "low risk of suicide" based on the risk prediction methodology. The importance of a clinician meeting me where I am, acknowledging my situation, and working with me to understand the ways in which we can collectively keep me safe cannot be underestimated. I believe that a therapeutic and empathetic assessment can be the starting point for a life-saving relationship.'

The authors highlight the fact that extensive evidence from several countries shows that prediction of risk largely doesn't work. They also point out that preoccupation with risk prediction may undermine efforts to help patients with their problems, which has been highlighted by both family members and patients themselves.

The full paper, Assessment of suicide risk in mental health practice: Shifting from prediction to therapeutic assessment, formulation and risk management, can be read in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Similar stories

Updating the circuit maps of the sympathetic neural network

A new review from Professor Ana Domingos’ lab and colleagues offers a fresh modern viewpoint on sympathetic neurons and their relation to immune cells and obesity.

Many adolescents game a lot without negative effects on their wellbeing

Although many school-age adolescents are spending considerable time gaming, it is not having a negative impact on their wellbeing.

Few mental health apps make it to real world, according to new Oxford University study

Despite enthusiasm for digital technology in addressing young people’s mental health, few effective apps have been successfully rolled out.

Study reveals association between diagnosis of a neuropsychiatric condition and severe outcome from COVID-19 infection, and other severe acute respiratory infections

New research from the University of Oxford has shown an increased risk of severe illness and death from both COVID-19 and other severe respiratory infections, such as influenza and pneumonia, among people with a pre-existing mental health condition.

New study shows clinical symptoms for Alzheimer’s can be predicted in preclinical models

Establishing preclinical models of Alzheimer’s that reflect in-life clinical symptoms of each individual is a critically important goal, yet so far it has not been fully realised. A new collaborative study from the University of Oxford has demonstrated that clinical vulnerability to an abnormally abundant protein in Alzheimer’s brain is in fact reflected in individual patient induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cortical neurons.