How to Identify Suicidal People: A Systematic Approach to Risk Assessment


Thomas W. White, PhD


"This book is a presentation of a comprehensive and long overdue suicide assessment system that mental health professionals could effectively and easily implement in everyday clinical practice. The purpose is to provide the reader with an effective method for conducting both both clinically relevant and legally defensible suicide assessments. This is accomplished through the presentation of a clinically applicable set of guidelines to recognize the factors necessary for identifying suicidal people and the ability to organize and structure the assessments.

The H.E.L.P.E.R. Risk Assessment System [an acronym for the six steps involved: Historical, Environmental, Lethality, Psychological, Evaluation, Reporting], is presented in six chapters and explained in complete and accurate detail. The system is supported by pertinent past and current literature and the author takes a refreshingly holistic stance on assessment by incorporating the multidimensional and biophysical approaches.


The separate chapter on legal issues involved in suicide litigation will benefit any clinician. The appendix includes low and high-risk examples of suicide assessment reports and this complements the preceding chapters. This is a useful book for any healthcare professional whose work involves assessing suicidal patients. Mental health professionals will find this book to be a reference for documentation standards and a clinical tool for accurate suicide assessments. This book is a long awaited addition to the field of psychiatry in an area that is all too common in our everyday practice."


— Doody's Health Sciences Book Review

"This book offers an outstanding and unusually coherent and complete overview of the risk factors associated with suicidal behavior. It provides clinicians with an organized approach to gathering information about suicidal patients."

— Annals of Internal Medicine


"This is an excellent reference for mental health professionals who work with potentially suicidal people. Discusses the author's new method, an actual system of conducting risk assessments."

 — American Association of Suicidology


"Everyone involved in the care of people—medical personnel, educators, counselors, clergy, volunteers, social workers—ALL MUST READ THIS BOOK.... The problem: 32,000 annual suicides in the United States. Nine times as many people will try to kill themselves. Look at the numbers, read the book. Get busy improving your skills."

 — Rev. Dr. Richard B. Gilbert, World Pastoral Care Center