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Optimizing the assessment of suicidal behavior: the application of curtailment techniques.

Beurs, D.P. de, Fokkema, M., O'Connor, R.C. Optimizing the assessment of suicidal behavior: the application of curtailment techniques. Journal of Affective Disorders: 2016, 196, 218-224
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Background
Given their length, commonly used scales to assess suicide risk, such as the Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation (SSI) are of limited use as screening tools. In the current study we tested whether deterministic and stochastic curtailment can be applied to shorten the 19-item SSI, without compromising its accuracy.

Methods
Data from 366 patients, who were seen by a liaison psychiatry service in a general hospital in Scotland after a suicide attempt, were used. Within 24 hours of admission, the SSI was administered; 15 months later, it was determined whether a patient was re-admitted to a hospital as the result of another suicide attempt. We fitted a Receiver Operating Characteristic curve to derive the best cut-off value of the SSI for predicting future suicidal behavior. Using this cut-off, both deterministic and stochastic curtailment were simulated on the item score patterns of the SSI.

Results
A cut-off value of SSI≥6 provided the best classification accuracy for future suicidal behavior. Using this cut-off, we found that both deterministic and stochastic curtailment reduce the length of the SSI, without reducing the accuracy of the final classification decision. With stochastic curtailment, on average, less than 8 items are needed to assess whether administration of the full-length test will result in an SSI score below or above the cut-off value of 6.

Limitations
New studies using other datasets should re-validate the optimal cut-off for risk of repeated suicidal behavior after being treated in a hospital following an attempt.

Conclusions
Curtailment can be used to simplify the assessment of suicidal behavior, and should be considered as an alternative to the full scale.