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BACKGROUND: The SADPERSONS Scale is commonly used as a screening tool for suicide risk in those who have self-harmed. It is also used to determine psychiatric treatment needs in those presenting to emergency departments. To date, there have been relatively few studies exploring the utility of SADPERSONS in this context. OBJECTIVES: To determine whether the SADPERSONS Scale accurately predicts psychiatric hospital admission, psychiatric aftercare and repetition of self-harm at presentation to the emergency department following self-harm. METHODS: SADPERSONS scores were recorded for 126 consecutive admissions to a general hospital emergency department. Clinical management outcomes following assessment were recorded, including psychiatric hospital admission, community psychiatric aftercare and repetition of self-harm in the following 6 months. RESULTS: Psychiatric hospital admission was required in five cases (4.0%) and community psychiatric aftercare in 70 (55.5%). 31 patients (24.6%) repeated self-harm. While the specificity of the SADPERSONS scores was greater than 90% for all outcomes, sensitivity for admission was only 2.0%, for community aftercare was 5.8% and for repetition of self-harm in the following 6 months was just 6.6%. CONCLUSIONS: For the purposes of suicide prevention, a low false negative rate is essential. SADPERSONS failed to identify the majority of those either requiring psychiatric admission or community psychiatric aftercare, or to predict repetition of self-harm. The scale should not be used to screen self-harm patients presenting to general hospitals. Greater emphasis should be placed on clinical assessment which takes account of the individual and dynamic nature of risk assessment.

Original publication




Journal article


Emerg Med J

Publication Date





796 - 798


mental health, assessment, mental health, overdose, mental health, self harm, Adult, Aftercare, Female, Hospitalization, Hospitals, General, Hospitals, Psychiatric, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Predictive Value of Tests, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Risk Assessment, Risk Factors, Self-Injurious Behavior, Sensitivity and Specificity, Suicide, Attempted