- Which changes in brain biochemical function is most associated with suicidal behavior?
a. Dopamine excess
b. Serotonin deficiency
c. Acetylcholine excess
d. Gamma-aminobutyric acid deficiency
Research suggests that low levels of serotonin may play a role in the decision to commit suicide. The other neurotransmitter alterations have not been implicated in suicidal crises.
- A college student failed two tests. Afterward, the student cried for hours and then tried to telephone a parent but got no answer. The student then gave several expensive sweaters to a roommate. Which behavior provides the strongest clue of an impending suicide attempt?
a. Calling parents
b. Excessive crying
c. Giving away sweaters
d. Staying alone in a dorm room
Giving away prized possessions may signal that the individual thinks he or she will have no further need for the items, such as when a suicide plan has been formulated. Calling parents and crying do not provide clues to suicide, in and of themselves. Remaining in the dormitory would be an expected behavior because the student has nowhere else to go.
- A nurse uses the SAD PERSONS scale to interview a patient. This tool provides data relevant to:
a. current stress level.
b. mood disturbance.
c. suicide potential.
d. level of anxiety.
The SAD PERSONS tool evaluates 10 major risk factors in suicide potential: sex, age, depression, previous attempt, ethanol use, rational thinking loss, social supports lacking, organized plan, no spouse, and sickness. The tool does not have appropriate categories to provide information on the other options listed.
- A person intentionally overdoses on antidepressant drugs. Which nursing diagnosis has the highest priority?
b. Social isolation
c. Risk for suicide
d. Ineffective management of the therapeutic regimen
This diagnosis is the only one with life-or-death ramifications and is therefore higher in priority than the other options.
- A person attempts suicide by overdose, is treated in the emergency department, and then hospitalized. What is the best initial outcome? The patient will:
a. verbalize a will to live by the end of the second hospital day.
b. describe two new coping mechanisms by the end of the third hospital day.
c. accurately delineate personal strengths by the end of first week of hospitalization.
d. exercise suicide self-restraint by refraining from gestures or attempts to kill self for 24 hours.
Suicide self-restraint relates most directly to the priority problem of risk for self-directed violence. The other outcomes are related to hope, coping, and self-esteem.
- A college student who attempted suicide by overdose is hospitalized. When the parents are contacted, they respond, There must be a mistake. This could not have happened. Weve given our child everything. The parents reaction reflects:
d. rescue feelings.
The parents statements indicate denial. Denial or minimization of suicidal ideation or attempts is a defense against uncomfortable feelings. Family members are often unable to acknowledge suicidal ideation in someone close to them. The feelings suggested in the distractors are not clearly described in the scenario.
- An adolescent tells the school nurse, My friend threatened to take an overdose of pills. The nurse talks to the friend who verbalized the suicide threat. The most critical question for the nurse to ask would be:
a. Why do you want to kill yourself?
b. Do you have access to medications?
c. Have you been taking drugs and alcohol?
d. Did something happen with your parents?
The nurse must assess the patients access to the means to carry out the plan and, if there is access, alert the parents to remove them from the home. The other questions may be important to ask but are not the most critical.
- An adult attempts suicide after declaring bankruptcy. The patient is hospitalized and takes an antidepressant medication for five days. The patient is now more talkative and shows increased energy. Select the highest priority nursing intervention.
a. Supervise the patient 24 hours a day.
b. Begin discharge planning for the patient.
c. Refer the patient to art and music therapists.
d. Consider the discontinuation of suicide precautions.
The patient now has more energy and may have decided on suicide, especially considering the history of the prior suicide attempt. The patient is still a suicide risk; therefore, continuous supervision is indicated.
- A nurse and patient construct a no-suicide contract. Select the preferable wording for the contract.
a. I will not try to harm myself during the next 24 hours.
b. I will not make a suicide attempt while I am hospitalized.
c. For the next 24 hours, I will not kill or harm myself in any way.
d. I will not kill myself until I call my primary nurse or a member of the staff.
The correct answer leaves no loopholes. The wording about not harming oneself and not making an attempt leaves loopholes or can be ignored by the patient who thinks, I am not going to harm myself, I am going to kill myself, or I am not going to attempt suicide, I am going to commit suicide. A patient may call a therapist and leave the telephone to carry out the suicidal plan.
- A tearful, anxious patient at the outpatient clinic reports, I should be dead. The initial task of the nurse conducting the assessment interview is to:
a. assess the lethality of a suicide plan.
b. encourage expression of anger.
c. establish a rapport with the patient.
d. determine risk factors for suicide.
Establishing rapport will allow the nurse to obtain relevant assessment data such as the presence of a suicide plan, the lethality of a suicide plan, and the presence of risk factors for suicide.
- Select the most helpful response for a nurse to make when a patient being treated as an outpatient states, I am considering suicide.
a. Im glad you shared this. Please do not worry. We will handle it together.
b. I think you should admit yourself to the hospital to get help.
c. We need to talk about the good things you have to live for.
d. Bringing this up is a very positive action on your part.
This response gives the patient reinforcement and validation for making a positive response rather than acting out the suicidal impulse. It gives neither advice nor false reassurance, and it does not imply stereotypes such as, You have a lot to live for. It uses the patients ambivalence and sets the stage for more realistic problem-solving strategies.
- Which intervention should a nurse recommend for the distressed family and friends of someone who has committed suicide?
a. Participating in reminiscence therapy
b. Attending a self-help group for survivors
c. Contracting for two sessions of group therapy
d. Completing a psychological postmortem assessment
Survivors need outlets for their feelings about the loss and the deceased person. Self-help groups provide peer support while survivors work through feelings of loss, anger, and guilt. Psychological postmortem assessment would not provide the support necessary to work through feelings of loss associated with the suicide of a family member. Reminiscence therapy is not geared to loss resolution. Contracting for two sessions of group therapy would probably not provide sufficient time to work through the issues associated with a death by suicide.
- Which statement provides the best rationale for why a nurse should closely monitor a severely depressed patient during antidepressant medication therapy?
a. As depression lifts, physical energy becomes available to carry out suicide.
b. Suicide may be precipitated by a variety of internal and external events.
c. Suicidal patients have difficulty using social supports.
d. Suicide is an impulsive act.
Antidepressant medication has the objective of relieving depression. The risk for suicide is greater as the depression lifts, primarily because the patient has more physical energy at a time when he or she may still have suicidal ideation. The other options have little to do with nursing interventions relating to antidepressant medication therapy.
- A nurse assesses a patient who reports a 3-week history of depression and crying spells. The patient says, My business is bankrupt, and I was served with divorce papers. Which subsequent statement by the patient alerts the nurse to a concealed suicidal message?
a. I wish I were dead.
b. Life is not worth living.
c. I have a plan that will fix everything.
d. My family will be better off without me.
Verbal clues to suicide may be overt or covert. The incorrect options are overt references to suicide. The correct option is more veiled. It alludes to the patients suicide as being a way to fix everything but does not say it outright.
- A depressed patient says, Nothing matters anymore. What is the most appropriate response by the nurse?
a. Are you having thoughts of suicide?
b. I am not sure I understand what you are trying to say.
c. Try to stay hopeful. Things have a way of working out.
d. Tell me more about what interested you before you began feeling depressed.
The nurse must make overt what is covert; that is, the possibility of suicide must be openly addressed. Often, patients feel relieved to be able to talk about suicidal ideation.
- A nurse counsels a patient with recent suicidal ideation. Which is the nurses most therapeutic comment?
a. Lets make a list of all your problems and think of solutions for each one.
b. Im happy youre taking control of your problems and trying to find solutions.
c. When you have bad feelings, try to focus on positive experiences from your life.
d. Lets consider which problems are most important and which are less important.
The nurse helps the patient develop effective coping skills. He or she assists the patient to reduce the overwhelming effects of problems by prioritizing them. The incorrect options continue to present overwhelming approaches to problem solving.
- When assessing a patients plan for suicide, what aspect has priority?
a. Patients financial and educational status
b. Patients insight into suicidal motivation
c. Availability of means and lethality of method
d. Quality and availability of patients social support
If a person has definite plans that include choosing a method of suicide readily available, and if the method is one that is lethal (i.e., will cause the person to die with little probability for intervention), the suicide risk is considered high. These areas provide a better indication of risk than the areas mentioned in the other options.
- Which understanding about individuals who attempt suicide will help a nurse plan the care for a suicidal patient? Every suicidal person should be considered:
a. mentally ill.
b. intent on dying.
c. cognitively impaired.
d. experiencing hopelessness.
Hopelessness is the characteristic common among people who attempt suicide. The incorrect options reflect myths about suicide. Not all who attempt suicide are intent on dying. Not all are mentally ill or cognitively impaired.
- Which statement by a patient during an assessment interview should alert the nurse to the patients need for immediate, active intervention?
a. I am mixed up, but I know I need help.
b. I have no one for help or support.
c. It is worse when you are a person of color.
d. I tried to get attention before I shot myself.
Lack of social support and social isolation increase the suicide risk. The willingness to seek help lowers the risk. Being a person of color does not suggest a higher risk; more whites commit suicide than do individuals of other racial groups. Attention seeking is not correlated with a higher risk of suicide.
- The feeling experienced by a patient that should be assessed by the nurse as most predictive of elevated suicide risk is:
Of the feelings listed, hopelessness is most closely associated with increased suicide risk. Depression, aggression, impulsivity, and shame are other feelings noted as risk factors for suicide.
- Four individuals have given information about their suicide plans. Which plan evidences the highest suicide risk?
a. Jumping from a 100-foot-high railroad bridge located in a deserted area late at night
b. Turning on the oven and letting gas escape into the apartment during the night
c. Cutting the wrists in the bathroom while the spouse reads in the next room
d. Overdosing on aspirin with codeine while the spouse is out with friends
This is a highly lethal method with little opportunity for rescue. The other options are lower lethality methods with higher rescue potential.
- Which individual in the emergency department should be considered at the highest risk for completing suicide?
a. An adolescent Asian-American girl with superior athletic and academic skills who has asthma
b. A 38-year-old single African-American female church member with fibrocystic breast disease
c. A 60-year-old married Hispanic man with 12 grandchildren who has type 2 diabetes
d. A 79-year-old single white man with cancer of the prostate gland
High-risk factors include being an older adult, single, and male and having a co-occurring medical illness. Cancer is one of the somatic conditions associated with increased suicide risk. Protective factors for African-American women and Hispanic individuals include strong religious and family ties. Asian Americans have a suicide rate that increases with age.
- A nurse answers a suicide crisis line. A caller says, I live alone in a home several miles from my nearest neighbors. I have been considering suicide for 2 months. I have had several drinks and now my gun is loaded. Im going to shoot myself in the heart. How would the nurse assess the lethality of this plan?
a. No risk
b. Low level
c. Moderate level
d. High level
The patient has a highly detailed plan, a highly lethal method, the means to carry it out, lowered impulse control because of alcohol ingestion, and a low potential for rescue.
- A staff nurse tells another nurse, I evaluated a new patient using the SAD PERSONS scale and got a score of 10. Im wondering if I should send the patient home. Select the best reply by the second nurse.
a. That action would seem appropriate.
b. A score over 8 requires immediate hospitalization.
c. I think you should strongly consider hospitalization for this patient.
d. Give the patient a follow-up appointment. Hospitalization may be needed soon.
A SAD PERSONS scale score of 0 to 5 suggests home care with follow-up. A score of 6 to 8 requires psychiatric consultation. A score over 8 calls for hospitalization.
- A patient recently hospitalized for two weeks committed suicide during the night. Which initial measure will be most helpful for staff members and other patients regarding this event?
a. Request the public information officer to make an announcement to the local media.
b. Hold a staff meeting to express feelings and plan the care for other patients.
c. Ask the patients roommate not to discuss the event with other patients.
d. Quickly discharge as many patients as possible to prevent panic.
Interventions should be aimed at helping the staff and patients come to terms with the loss and to grow because of the incident. Then, a community meeting should be scheduled to allow other patients to express their feelings and request help. Staff members should be prepared to provide additional support and reassurance to patients and should seek opportunities for peer support. The incorrect options will not control information or may result in unsafe care.
- A severely depressed patient who has been on suicide precautions tells the nurse, I am feeling a lot better, so you can stop watching me. I have taken too much of your time already. Which is the nurses best response?
a. I wonder what this sudden change is all about. Please tell me more.
b. I am glad you are feeling better. The team will consider your request.
c. You should not try to direct your care. Leave that to the treatment team.
d. Because we are concerned about your safety, we will continue with our plan.
When a patient seeks to have precautions lifted by professing to feel better, the patient may be seeking greater freedom in which to attempt suicide. Changing the treatment plan requires careful evaluation of outcome indicators by the staff. The incorrect options will not cause the patient to admit to a suicidal plan, do not convey concern for the patient, or suggest that the patient is not a partner in the care process.
- A new nurse says to a peer, My newest patient is diagnosed with schizophrenia. At least I wont have to worry about suicide risk. Which response by the peer would be most helpful?
a. Lets reconsider your plan. Suicide risk is high in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.
b. Suicide is a risk for any patient diagnosed with schizophrenia who uses alcohol or drugs.
c. Patients diagnosed with schizophrenia are usually too disorganized to attempt suicide.
d. Visual hallucinations often prompt suicide among patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Up to 10% of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia die from suicide, usually related to depressive symptoms occurring in the early years of the illness. Depressive symptoms are related to suicide among patients diagnosed with schizophrenia. Patients diagnosed with schizophrenia usually have auditory, not visual, hallucinations. Although the use of drugs and alcohol compounds the risk for suicide, it is independent of schizophrenia.
- The parents of identical twins ask a nurse for advice. One twin committed suicide a month ago. Now the parents are concerned that the other twin may also have suicidal tendencies. Which comment by the nurse is accurate?
a. Genetics are associated with suicide risk. Monitoring and support are important.
b. Apathy underlies suicide. Instilling motivation is the key to health maintenance.
c. Your child is unlikely to act out suicide when identifying with a suicide victim.
d. Fraternal twins are at higher risk for suicide than identical twins.
Twin studies suggest the presence of genetic factors in suicide; however, separating genetic predisposition to suicide from predisposition to depression or alcoholism is difficult. Primary interventions can be helpful in promoting and maintaining health and possibly counteracting the genetic load. The incorrect options are untrue statements or oversimplifications.
- A college student failed two examinations. The student cried for hours and then tried to call a parent but got no answer. The student then suspended access to his social networking web site. Which suicide risk factors are present? Select all that apply.
a. History of earlier suicide attempt
b. Co-occurring medical illness
c. Recent stressful life event
d. Self-imposed isolation
e. Shame or humiliation
ANS: C, D, E
Failing examinations in the academic major constitutes a recent stressful life event. Shame and humiliation related to the failure can be hypothesized. The inability to contact parents can be seen as a recent lack of social support, as can the roommates absence from the dormitory. Terminating access to ones social networking site represents self-imposed isolation. This scenario does not provide data regarding a history of an earlier suicide attempt, a family history of suicide, or of co-occurring medical illness.
- A patient with suicidal impulses is on the highest level of suicide precautions. Which measures should the nurse incorporate into the patients plan of care? Select all that apply.
a. Allow no glass or metal on meal trays.
b. Remove all potentially harmful objects from the patients possession.
c. Maintain arms length, one-on-one nursing observation around the clock.
d. Check the patients whereabouts every hour. Make verbal contact at least three times each shift.
e. Check the patients whereabouts every 15 minutes, and make frequent verbal contacts.
f. Keep the patient within visual range while he or she is awake. Check every 15 to 30 minutes while the patient is sleeping.
ANS: A, B, C
One-on-one observation is necessary for anyone who has limited control over suicidal impulses. Plastic dishes on trays and the removal of potentially harmful objects from the patients possession are measures included in any level of suicide precautions. The remaining options are used in less stringent levels of suicide precautions.
- A nurse assesses five newly hospitalized patients. Which patients have the highest suicide risk? Select all that apply.
a. 82-year-old white man
b. 17-year-old white female adolescent
c. 39-year-old African-American man
d. 29-year-old African-American woman
e. 22-year-old man with traumatic brain injury
ANS: A, B, E
Whites have suicide rates almost twice those of nonwhites, and the rate is particularly high for older adult men, adolescents, and young adults. Other high risk groups include young African-American men, Native-American men, older Asian Americans, and persons with traumatic brain injury.
- A nurse assesses the health status of soldiers returning from Afghanistan. Screening for which health problems will be a priority? Select all that apply.
b. Eating disorder
c. Traumatic brain injury
d. Oppositional defiant disorder
e. Post-traumatic stress disorder
ANS: C, E
Traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder each occur in approximately 20% of soldiers returning from Afghanistan. Some soldiers have both problems. The incidence of disorders identified in the distractors would be expected to parallel the general population.