Cover: Preteen Suicide Risk Screening in the Pediatric Outpatient Setting

Preteen Suicide Risk Screening in the Pediatric Outpatient Setting

A Clinical Pathway

Published in: Journal of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry (In Press, Journal Pre-proof) (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.jaclp.2024.06.003

Posted on Jul 1, 2024

by Laura Hennefield, Ellen-Ge Denton, Peggy G. Chen, Arielle Hope Sheftall, Lynsay Ayer

We are in a youth mental health crisis with unprecedented and staggeringly high rates of suicidal ideations and suicide behaviors in preteens. In the United States 14.5% of children aged 9-10 have experienced suicidal thoughts and behaviors, including 1.3% with a suicide attempt. American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines call for universal suicide risk screening of youth aged 12+ years during preventative healthcare visits, and screening in preteens aged 8-11 years when clinically indicated. However, what constitutes a clinical indication at 8-11 years can be difficult to systematically detect and pediatric practitioners may not be equipped with necessary age-specific assessment tools. This is compounded by the lack of emphasis on preteen suicide risk screening (and focus on adolescents), which leaves practitioners without age-appropriate resources to make clinical determinations for at-risk preteens. The objective of this project was thus to develop an evidence-informed suicide risk screening pathway for pediatric practitioners to implement with preteen patients in outpatient settings. Suicide risk assessment in younger children (<8 years) is also briefly addressed. We convened a group of researchers and practitioners with expertise in preadolescent suicide, pediatric medicine, behavioral health screening integration with primary care, and child development. They reviewed the empirical literature and existing practice guidelines to iterate on a multi-informant clinical suicide risk screening pathway for preteens that includes both caregivers and preteens in the screening process. We also developed tools and accompanying guidelines for a preteen suicide risk screening workflow and risk determination to aid practitioners in deciding who, when, and how to screen. Finally, we provide scripts for introducing suicide risk screening to caregivers and preteens and to discuss screening findings.

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