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Children's National Psychiatrist Testing Suicide Screening Tool for Use in Pediatric Inpatient Setting

Washington DC – Martine Solages, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Children’s National Health System’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, is principal investigator and recipient of a pilot grant to validate the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) suicide risk screening tool for use in pediatric medical inpatient settings. The project has been designed and implemented in collaboration with researchers from the National Institutes of Mental Health. 

“Kids with chronic medical conditions are at risk for depression and suicidal ideation,” says Dr. Solages. “We were wondering whether screening children in an inpatient setting might help us identify kids who might otherwise be missed.” 

Dr. Solages and a team at Children’s National have been collecting data since February 2014 and evaluating medical inpatients between the ages of 10 and 21 on a voluntary basis.

The tool asks participants four questions about having suicidal thoughts and whether they wished they were dead.

 “The idea is that the ASQ is a quick screen, just a few questions,” says Dr. Solages. “We are trying to determine if we can use this brief tool to identify kids at risk rather than using available but much longer gold-standard suicide screening tools.”

The ASQ was validated for use in pediatric emergency departments by a team of researchers including Stephen Teach, MD, MPH, Chair of Pediatrics, Children’s National, and George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and former Associate Chief of Emergency Medicine. Those study results found that nearly 30 percent of the children participating were at risk for suicide.   

“The first step is validating the tool, but in the long term the ASQ could be a good way to identify kids who never had the opportunity to say they were depressed or whom we’d never asked,” says Dr. Solages.

Dr. Solages was awarded a Pilot Research Grant from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for validating the ASQ tool for use in pediatric medical inpatient settings.

Contact: Caitlyn Camacho at 202-476-4500.

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