“Is Your Patient Suicidal?” Emergency Department Poster and Clinical Guide


(For resources, this is the publication date. For programs, this is the date posted.)


Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Online versions of the “Is Your Patient Suicidal?” emergency department poster and clinical guide can be downloaded and printed from the SPRC website. Another resource, Using the “Is your Patient Suicidal?” Poster and Triage Guide, provides a brief set of instructions for ED staff who are displaying the poster and referencing the guide for evaluation and triage.


The Suicide Prevention Resource Center developed the “Is Your Patient Suicidal?” Emergency Department Poster to provide emergency department personnel with information on recognizing and responding to acute suicide risk. The accompanying guide, “Suicide Risk: A Guide for ED Evaluation and Triage”, provides additional clinical guidance for ED personnel. The poster and clinical guide were developed by an expert panel composed of suicide researchers, emergency department nurses and physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists. Editing and design was guided by focus groups of relevant stakeholders. Also contributing to the poster and guide were the American Association of Suicidology, the Emergency Nurses Association, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the American Association for Emergency Psychiatry.

Poster size is 11” X 17”. Poster content includes (1) signs of acute suicide risk, (2) key risk factors for suicide, and (3) questions that can be asked of those who might be at risk for suicide. The clinical guide is contained on a standard 11” X 8.5” sheet with information on the front and back. Clinical guide content includes information about (1) assessing suicide risk, (2) recommended interventions, (3) discharge protocols, (4) suggested documentation, and (5) procedures to use when a patient elopes.

Program Objectives

ED personnel who read the poster and clinical guide should have:

  1. Increased awareness of the high prevalence of suicide risk among their patients, regardless of their presenting chief complaint(s).
  2. Increased knowledge of suicide warning signs ED patients may exhibit.
  3. Increased knowledge of the types of questions clinicians can ask to elicit suicidality.
  4. Increased knowledge of clinical tools that can improve management of suicidal patients (these include triage and treatment planning, discharge checklist, documentation guide, and elopement management protocols).
  5. Increased comfort to ask patients, with seemingly unrelated chief complaints, about suicide.

Implementation Essentials

  • The ED poster should be used in conjunction with the clinical guide.

2012 NSSP Objectives Addressed: 

Objective 2.4: Increase knowledge of the warning signs for suicide and of how to connect individuals in crisis with assistance and care.

Objective 7.5: Develop and implement protocols and programs for clinicians and clinical supervisors, first responders, crisis staff, and others on how to implement effective strategies for communicating and collaboratively managing suicide risk.

Objective 9.1: Adopt, disseminate, and implement guidelines for the assessment of suicide risk among persons receiving care in all settings.