fbpx Suicide risk assessment and intervention strategies (stage 2) | NDARC - National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre

Suicide risk assessment and intervention strategies (stage 2)

image - Man %2B Women Counselling 280
Date Commenced:
Project Supporters:

Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing

Project Members: 
image - 1314150220 Joanne Ross 06
Dr Joanne Ross
Adjunct Senior Lecturer
Dr Mark Deady
Senior Research Fellow
Project Main Description: 

Suicide is a leading cause of death among people who misuse drugs and alcohol. The annual prevalence of attempted suicide among dependent drug users is equivalent to the lifetime prevalence in the general population. Clearly suicide represents a major clinical challenge to those treating drug dependent users, yet little is known about how suicide risk is currently managed in Australian drug and alcohol treatment settings.



Stage 1 of this project identified the need for the development of three resources to improve the management of suicide risk in residential drug and alcohol treatment settings: a Policies and Procedures Pro-forma (Suicide–PPP) to assist managers in drafting guidelines for managing suicide risk, an Acute suicide risk Screener (Suicide-AS), and a Standardised Suicide Risk Formulation Template (Suicide-RFT).           


The aims of stage 2 were to: 

  • Design a template that managers of drug and alcohol treatment agencies can use to guide the process of creating supportive links with mental health services, and upon which suicide guidelines can be established
  • Develop an acute suicide risk assessment screener
  • Design a standardised suicide risk formulation template for identifying what is known about a client’s background suicide risk factors (e.g. personality disorders, other psychopathology), and highlighting any unknown factors in the client’s suicide risk profile
  • Develop a brief resource to accompany these tools, explaining why suicide risk assessment is important, and raising awareness about these assessment tools
  • Promote the sustainability of the tools by producing an instruction manual to accompany them.
Design and Method: 

The development of resources was informed by the literature on suicide risk assessment and an Advisory Panel consisting of members of the Network of Alcohol and Other Drugs (NADA).


Residential services have expressed an interest in using the SAK. Funding for stage 3 of the study, ‘The evaluation and dissemination of the SAK in residential rehabilitation services across Australia’, is currently being sought from DoHA.


Three key resources, including a suicide risk screener, a suicide risk formulation template, and a policies and procedures pro-forma, have been produced as part of the Suicide Assessment Kit (SAK).  Dr Joanne Ross also gave a presentation about the SAK at the 2011 NDARC Symposium and APSAD conference.


Once evaluated and disseminated nationally, all residential rehabilitation services across Australia will be able to utilise the SAK to assist them in the assessment and management of suicide risk.

Project Research Area: 
Project Status: 
Year Completed: