Assessing Suicidal Risk for Children

Use this checklist as an exploratory guide with children about whom you are concerned.

There is no single score that indicates HIGH risk. Each YES answer raises the level of risk. A history of suicide attempts increases the risk of any YES answer. High risk is also associated with very detailed plans about dying (when/where/how) that specify a lethal and readily available method of dying, a specific time, and a location where it is unlikely the suicidal act would be interrupted. Another high risk indicator is when a child has made “final” arrangements, including giving away valuables and mementos. Children that have experienced a recent, critical loss are also at increased risk of attempting suicide.

Past Attempts, Current Plans, and View of Death

  • Does the child have frequent suicidal thoughts?
  • Have there been suicide attempts by the child or a significant other in his/her life?
  • Does the child have a detailed, feasible plan?
  • Has s/he made special arrangements such as giving away possessions?
  • Does the child fantasize about suicide as a way to make others feel guilty or as a way to get to a happier afterlife?

Reactions to Precipitating Events

  • Is the child experiencing severe psychological distress?
  • Have there been major changes in recent behavior along with negative feelings or thoughts?

Psychological Support

  • Is there a lack of a significant other to help the child survive?
  • Does the child feel alienated?

History of Risk-taking Behavior

  • Does the child take life-threatening risks or display poor impulse control?

David Britton and Roberta Lester-Britton specialize in working with suicidal children.

Published by

Dr. Gnap

Dr. Gnap is a family practice physician and behavioral medicine specialist in suburban Chicago.  Dr. Gnap developed the Inner Control™ Program in 1970 and has worked with thousands of people to improve and correct medical, emotional, behavioral and learning problems including performance.  He started the Inner Control program because so many patients asked, “what more can be done along with traditional treatment methods?”

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