What Is a Suicidal Ideation Scale?

what is a suicidal ideation scale
Suicidal ideation scales are clinical tools used to assess a person’s risk of committing suicide and therefore help in timely intervention and treatment

A suicidal ideation scale is a clinical tool used to assess a person’s risk of committing suicide. By helping healthcare providers recognize signs that someone is likely to self-injure, the scale aids in timely intervention and treatment. 

Suicidal ideation scales include questions about a person’s thoughts, attitudes, and desire to commit suicide. Examples include:

  • Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation (BSSI)
  • Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS)
  • Suicide Assessment Five-Step Evaluation and Triage (SAFE-T) 
  • Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ9)

In order to screen for suicidal ideation, healthcare providers may use one or more of these scales in addition to performing a physical examination to look for signs of self-harm or underlying medical conditions. They will also take a detailed medical history that includes the person’s sleeping pattern, appetite, and any medications they are on.

What are types of suicidal ideation?

Suicidal ideation refers to someone wanting to take their own life or thinking about doing so. The affected may be so preoccupied with thoughts of death that it interferes with their day-to-day life. There are two broad types: active and passive. 

  • Active suicidal ideation: The person keeps thinking about dying and even plans how to commit suicide. 
  • Passive suicidal ideation: The person wants to die but doesn’t make a plan to commit suicide.

Suicidal ideation is a broad term that includes various thoughts and behavior that are self-injurious, whether suicidal or not:

  • Suicidal thoughts: Thoughts of killing oneself
  • Suicidal threat: Thoughts of killing oneself that are verbalized to others
  • Suicide attempt: Behavior that is intended to kill oneself but doesn’t result in death
  • Nonsuicidal self-injury: Directly and intentionally hurting oneself without the intention of suicide

How prevalent is suicide?

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death in people between the ages of 10-34. The gravity of the situation can be seen in the fact that every 11 minutes one person loses their life to suicide. 

Furthermore, many cases of suicide worldwide are not even reported due to stigma, religious beliefs, and other concerns. Hence, the actual picture may be even grimmer than what is visible on the surface.

Can suicidal ideation be treated?

Suicidal ideation can be effectively treated with professional help. The first step is recognizing that a problem exists and seeking help. Treatment of suicidal ideation mainly consists of the following:

Suicidal ideation, like other mental health conditions, needs the involvement of family and friends to help a person recover. Severe cases may need hospitalization, and long-term follow-ups may also be needed to ensure that suicidal tendencies do not affect the person again