Safety and prevention is the purpose of risk assessment. A first principle is to notice when there may be a possibility of suicidal thinking or behaviour. This requires a high level of awareness, especially if mental health is not the presenting issue.
In some instances risk is obvious, but in others suicidal thinking or behaviour may not be apparent. Risk assessment cannot be an exact science. Risk is likely to involve a complex range of factors.
The most effective way of approaching it is to take a holistic approach, i.e. consider a complex range of factors, meanings and experiences that constitute a person’s world. The more comprehensive the assessment is, the more valid it is likely to be. It is also important to assess the safety of other people, e.g. of the person’s family. This involves being open to understanding a person’s experiences and circumstances and the meanings they have about them.
The more comprehensive a risk assessment is, the more valid it is likely to be.
Relevant factors to be taken into account include:
- Suicidal thoughts and desires
- A history and/or current mental illness, e.g. depression, anxiety, bi-polar
- Life factors
- Formulated suicide plans.