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IU School of Medicine scientists’ tool predicts risk without asking if patient is suicidal

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Researchers at IU School of Medicine published a paper validating their screening tool designed to predict suicide risk. 

It’s a questionnaire called Convergent Functional Information for Suicidality, or CFI-S. Questions are centered around topics like physical health, environmental stress and addiction. But nowhere on the list is the question “Are you currently thinking about committing suicide?”

So, how can an assessment designed to identify suicidal risk not ask if a person is thinking about taking his or her own life and still be accurate? News 8 spoke with Dr. Alexander Niculescu, professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at IU School of Medicine, who says it’s actually better that way. 

“We deliberately did that,” he said. “That question is a loaded question. No pun intended. It’s something people are hesitant to answer because they feel like they might get hospitalized or detained or locked in an in-patient unit. And it’s something that some clinicians in some settings are not equipped for it and they are hesitant to ask because what if the person says they are suicidal?”

Niculescu says the screening is both simple and quick. Patients answer just 22 questions with either a yes or a no and it only takes about 5 minutes. Additionally, it can be administered in virtually any setting–from doctors’ offices and the emergency room to student health centers and the military. 

CFI-S, Niculescu says, is at least 80% accurate in predicting suicide in every group he has tested so far.

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