Research Article|Articles in Press

A National Survey of Pediatricians’ Experiences and Practices With Suicide Prevention

Published:January 30, 2023DOI:



      Describe pediatricians’ experiences, attitudes, and practices around suicide prevention within primary care, and examine associations between pediatricians’ experiences and practices.


      The nationally representative Periodic Survey of American Academy of Pediatrics members provided data on pediatricians’ patient experience with suicide risk, perceived barriers to screening for suicidal ideation (SI), preparedness to counsel about suicide prevention, interest in learning more about suicide prevention strategies, and frequency of screening for and managing suicidal ideation. Multivariable analyses examined the effect of having a patient die by or attempt suicide on screening practices.


      A total of 41% responded to the survey with 377 respondents in the analytic sample. A total of 93% of pediatricians had a patient screen positive for SI and 81% had a patient attempt or die by suicide. A total of 61% always screened for SI and 63% reported using a standardized depression screening tool and 9% a suicide-specific tool. Respondents who had a patient attempt or die by suicide were more likely to screen for SI (OR, 2.05, 95% CI, 1.16–3.63) and use a standardized depression screening instrument (OR, 2.34, 95% CI, 1.29–4.24). Patient reluctance to discuss mental health was the most frequently cited barrier (51%) followed by lack of time (49%) and lack of treatment options (43%). Over 90% of respondents assessed for a plan and referred to mental health services when suicidal ideation was identified.


      Although pediatricians frequently see patients with suicide risk, 39% do not always screen for SI. Educational efforts are needed to improve pediatricians’ assessment and management of suicide risk given new guidelines.


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