What's the harm in asking about suicidal ideation?

Charles W. Mathias, R. Michael Furr, Arielle H. Sheftall, Nathalie Hill-Kapturczak, Paige Crum, Donald M. Dougherty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Both researchers and oversight committees share concerns about patient safety in the study-related assessment of suicidality. However, concern about assessing suicidal thoughts can be a barrier to the development of empirical evidence that informs research on how to safely conduct these assessments. A question has been raised if asking about suicidal thoughts can result in iatrogenic increases of such thoughts, especially among at-risk samples. The current study repeatedly tested suicidal ideation at 6-month intervals for up to 2-years. Suicidal ideation was measured with the Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire Junior, and administered to adolescents who had previously received inpatient psychiatric care. Change in suicidal ideation was tested using several analytic techniques, each of which pointed to a significant decline in suicidal ideation in the context of repeated assessment. This and previous study outcomes suggest that asking an at-risk population about suicidal ideation is not associated with subsequent increases in suicidal ideation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-351
Number of pages11
JournalSuicide and Life-Threatening Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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