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Making the Case for Suicide Risk Screening in Outpatient Podiatry Patients: An Opportunity for Injury Prevention

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  • 1 Foot & Ankle Specialists of the Mid-Atlantic, Wheaton, MD.
  • | 2 National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD.
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Background: Despite prevention efforts, suicide rates continue to rise, prompting the need for novel evidence-based approaches to suicide prevention. Patients presenting with foot and ankle disorders in a podiatric medical and surgical practice may represent a population at risk for suicide, given risk factors of chronic pain and debilitating injury. Screening has the potential to identify people at risk that may otherwise go unrecognized. This quality improvement project aimed to determine the feasibility of implementing suicide risk screening in an outpatient podiatry clinic and ambulatory surgical center.

Methods: A suicide risk screening quality improvement project was implemented in an outpatient podiatry clinic and ambulatory surgical center in collaboration with a National Institute of Mental Health suicide prevention research team. Following training for all staff, patients aged 18 years and older were screened for suicide risk with the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions as standard of care. Clinic staff were surveyed about their opinions of screening.

Results: Ninety-four percent of patients (442 of 470) agreed to be screened for suicide risk and nine patients (nine of 442 [2%]) were screened as nonacute positive; zero patients were screened as acute risk. The majority of clinic staff reported that they found screening acceptable, felt comfortable working with patients who have suicidal thoughts, and thought screening for suicide risk was clinically useful.

Conclusions: Suicide risk screening was successfully implemented in an outpatient podiatry clinic. Screening with the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions instrument provided valuable information that would not have been ascertained otherwise, positively impacting clinical decision-making and leading to improved overall care for podiatry patients.

Corresponding author: Lisa M. Horowitz, PhD, MPH, National Institute of Mental Health, Office of the Clinical Director, 10 Center Dr, Bethesda, MD 20892. (E-mail: horowitzl@mail.nih.gov)