Is Universal Suicide Screening in the ED Universally Effective? Considerations for Youth with ASD 

Principal Investigator(s):
Paige E. Cervantes, Ph.D. & Sarah M. Horwitz, Ph.D.
Grant Type:
Applied Research
Bellevue Hospital
New York, NY
Year Awarded:
Behavior, Emotions, Mental Health


Over the past decade, there has been an alarming increase in suicide rates among children and adolescents. In response to this public health crisis, universal suicide risk screening has been recommended across multiple youth-serving settings, including in emergency departments (EDs). However, special populations, such as youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are often excluded from or not focused on in the evaluation of these screening efforts. This is problematic for multiple reasons including that research has demonstrated that youth with ASD are at higher risk for suicidality, and that there are differences between youth with and without ASD in the presentation of suicide risk and the patterns of suicidal behavior. Therefore, it is likely not accurate to apply the same strategies for assessing and managing suicide-related symptoms that are used with typically developing children and adolescents to youth with ASD. This project will be the first to evaluate the effectiveness of universal screening in the ED for youth with ASD compared to typically developing youth. Additionally, this project will be the first to document the differences in physician care and confidence in diagnosing and treating suicidal youth with and without ASD. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop, evaluate and disseminate ASD-specific physician education, offering data-based considerations for adapting suicide screening and management strategies to improve care for youth with ASD.


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