“A disappointing, and perhaps the most telling, finding was that there has been no improvement in the accuracy of suicide risk assessment over the last 40 years.”
Suicide Risk Assessment doesn’t work. In fact, research suggests it not only doesn’t help, but also it may hurt.
One study looked at the last 40 years of suicide risk assessment research. They found no statistical method to identify patients at a high-risk of suicide in a way that would improve treatment.
Another study of people who had already harmed themselves found that there was no evidence to support the use of risk assessment scales.
Combined with ineffective suicide risk assessment, patients labeled with depression or suicidal ideation often receive prescriptions for dangerous psychotropic drugs laden, and even labeled, with side effects that encourage the exact symptoms they are marketed to treat.
Suicide prevention is a social issue, rather than a medical one. A psychiatrist prescribing an antidepressant is thus not really providing a valid treatment, and the widespread use of suicide risk assessment diverts social and health care practitioners from engaging with patients to find out and handle whatever is really the problem.
Risk assessments, screenings, school mental health programs and more funding are often presented as solutions to suicide, and since the onset of the Covid pandemic calls for more screenings and funding are louder than ever. Yet these so-called solutions are actually contributing to the problem by masking truly effective solutions and proliferating the use of psychotropic drugs whose side effects include suicide and violence.
No one denies that people can have difficult problems in their lives, that at times they can be mentally unstable. Mental health care is therefore both valid and necessary. However, the emphasis must be on workable mental healing methods that improve and strengthen individuals and thereby society by restoring people to personal strength, ability, competence, confidence, stability, responsibility and spiritual well-being. Psychiatry is not workable.