Study: Questions being used to identify people at risk of suicide often fall short

Nonprofit 33 Forever supports research

A new study finds the current questions being used to identify people at risk of mental health issues and suicide often fall short. Especially for people with access to firearms. The study’s lead author said there’s no one set of suicide screening questions that are right for everyone. They find when it came to gun owners, changing the questions being asked made a significant difference.

A new study finds the current questions being used to identify people at risk of mental health issues and suicide often fall short. Especially for people with access to firearms.

The study’s lead author said there’s no one set of suicide screening questions that are right for everyone. They find when it came to gun owners, changing the questions being asked made a significant difference.

Donna and Jeff Heck lost their daughter Dani to suicide in 2019 as she was making plans to start an organization to help others with mental illness. Now, her parents are carrying out her dreams through a nonprofit called 33 Forever.

“She had a dark moment that she couldn’t get through, unfortunately, and that’s why we lost her,” Jeff Heck said.

The nonprofit is supporting research at Ohio State University on better ways to screen for those at risk. The study found that gun owners were less likely to report suicidal thoughts, but more likely to answer if they’ve been thinking about ways they might attempt suicide.

“Not everyone experiences suicidal ideation in the same way. So, maybe our traditional ways of asking about suicidal thoughts are incomplete,” Ohio State College of Medicine researcher Craig Bryan said.

Experts recommend updating assessments to include a wider range of questions tailored to the individual.

“Just a simple shift in question, adding one more different perspective or a different angle to ask about suicidal thoughts could potentially help us identify people who are in a vulnerable state,” Bryan said.

If you feel you or a loved one is at risk, simple measures like keeping guns in a safe or asking a friend to hold onto your firearms can be lifesaving.


If you, or someone you know, is struggling with suicidal thoughts you are not alone. Help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 to provide support at 800-273-8255. Click here to find crisis lines in your county.



About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.