Primary Care and Suicide Screening: US Task Force Statement Interview with:

Albert L. Siu, MD, MSPH Co-Vice Chair Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New Interview with:
Albert L. Siu, MD, MSPH
Co-Vice Chair
Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York

MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Siu:  The Task Force looked to see if primary care clinicians could identify people who are at risk of suicide among those without a diagnosed mental health disorder or symptoms of mental illness, and if there were treatments that would help prevent suicide attempts. While there has been some promising early research, at this time, it is not clear how primary care clinicians can effectively identify and help people at risk of suicide.

MedicalResearch: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Siu:  To make this draft recommendation and update its 2004 recommendation, the Task Force reviewed evidence on screening adolescents, adults, and older adults for suicide risk in primary care. The evidence continues to be insufficient to determine the balance of benefits and harms of screening for suicide risk in the primary care setting, so the recommendation did not change.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Siu:  The lives of too many people, both young and old, including those who have served our country in the military, have been lost to suicide. It is critical to find the best ways to identify those at risk and support them with effective treatment. Primary care clinicians who have patients who are suicidal should get them immediate help. Since depression is strongly associated with suicide risk, primary care clinicians should screen both adolescents and adults for depression.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Siu:   The Task Force is calling for more research to better understand current screening tests, including evidence on screening tests that may better identify people without symptoms who are at risk for suicide as well as evidence on effective treatment programs for those who are identified as high risk.


LeFevre ML, on behalf of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Suicide Risk in Adolescents, Adults, and Older Adults in Primary Care: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160:719-726.

Last Updated on May 24, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD