Military mental health professionals’ suicide risk assessment and management before and after experiencing a patient’s suicide

Noam Paz Yunik*, Miriam Schiff, Shira Barzilay, Nirit Yavnai, Ariel Ben Yehuda, Leah Shelef

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This study examines the association between a patient's suicide and the therapist's suicide risk assessment (SRA) and suicide risk management (SRM) of patients, following the occurrence. Method: SRA values range from “absence of suicidality” to “immediate suicidal intent to die”. SRM consists of therapists’ written recommendations. Rates of the various SRA and SRM values in therapists’ evaluations were assessed 6-months prior to the suicide and at the two three- and six-month time-points thereafter. Results: Of the 150 soldiers who died by suicides, 30 (20%) visited 50 military therapists in the 6 months preceding their deaths. Using Wilcoxon signed rank test, lower SRA rates of “threatens suicide” were found 2 months after a patient's suicide. Regarding SRM, the mean rates for “recommendations for psychotherapy treatment” were higher at the two (p = 0.022) and the 3 month time-points (p = 0.031) after a suicide. Conclusions: The SRA findings may indicate therapists’ fear of treating suicidal patients, causing them to overlook patients’ non-prominent suicide-risk indicators. In SRM, the higher rate of recommendations for additional therapy sessions rather than military release or referrals to other therapists may relate to over-caution and attempts to control the patient's therapy ensuring it's done properly.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)392-400
Number of pages9
JournalSuicide and Life-Threatening Behavior
Issue number3
Early online date4 Feb 2022
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study received a grant from the Israel Defense Forces Medical Corps [approval number 1916‐2018], and the Tali Bar Scholarship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Association of Suicidology.

© 2022 American Association of Suicidology.


  • mental health military
  • suicide
  • suicide risk assessment
  • suicide risk management
  • therapists


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