Examination of physician factors influencing psychiatric assessment of acutely suicidal patients

Mason Chacko, Asha Job, Diane J. Kim, Houlin (Peter) Hong, Jeisson Fontecha-Hernandez, Dante Durand, Abdullah Hasan, Ricardo Cáceda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Suicide risk assessment is a subjective process and remains a clinical challenge in psychiatry. We aimed to examine physicians’ characteristics that influence management of acutely suicidal patients. In a cross-sectional design, we performed an anonymous internet survey of psychiatry residents and attendings from four academic centers. Gender, years of experience, practice setting, prior patient suicide, and personal exposure to suicide were characterized. Participants were presented with three clinical vignettes and asked to rate suicide risk and clinical disposition. The relationship between responses to the vignettes and physician characteristics were examined with generalized linear models. Fifty-four residents and 49 attendings completed the survey. Four (7%) residents and 24 (49%) attendings had patients die by suicide, whereas 32 (59%) and 36 (74%), respectively, knew somebody outside their practice who died by suicide. Among residents, lower rating of acute suicide risk was associated with prior exposure to non-patient suicide. Less hospitalization chosen by attendings was associated with greater perceived difficulty of suicide risk assessment. In the combined resident and attending sample, less proneness to hospitalize was associated with number of previous patients die by suicide and with outpatient practice. Our results suggest that previous exposure to suicide is associated with more risk-averse management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113736
JournalPsychiatry Research
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • clinical decision making
  • clinical vignettes
  • patient suicide
  • risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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