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Suicide risk assessment

CPD Hours



Clinical practice and procedures
Community and primary health care
Mental health
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Suicide is defined as the intentional ending of one's life. It is a rare and complex behaviour with many causes, which makes it difficult to predict. The factor that separates suicidal behaviour from other forms of self-harm and risk-taking is intent.

For behaviour to be suicidal, the person must intend to die. Suicide risk assessments are designed to identify this intent, allowing patients to receive appropriate support and protection.

The rate of suicide in Australia is increasing and more than twice as many people die of suicide annually in Australia than by car accident. The rate of suicide amongst Indigenous Australians is twice that of on-Indigenous Australians and 5.2% of all Indigenous people’s deaths are from suicide. Many argue that reducing the rate of suicide should be national priority. Working in health care provides a unique opportunity for community nurses to identify someone who may be at risk of suicide. Doing so provides the opportunity for referral to specialist services such as specialist mental health nurses and psychiatric services. This module is aimed at nurses working in primary health care or community health, without specialist skills or training in mental health. Nurses are in a key position and have a duty of care to identify people at risk of suicide. However, undertaking a suicide risk assessment can be challenging for nurses who do not work with suicidal patients on a regular basis.

This module outlines the rationale for, and importance of, undertaking a suicide risk assessment. It discusses the core components of a risk assessment and strategies for completing one. It does not include management interventions that could be employed on completion of the assessment.

Learning Objective

At the end of this module participants will be able to:

  • Understand the importance of undertaking timely suicide risk assessments.
  • Discuss approaches to take when doing a suicide risk assessment.
  • Explain the role of risk factors in a suicide risk assessment.
  • Explain the role of protective factors in a suicide risk assessment.
  • Identify warning factors to consider in a suicide risk assessment.

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