Agnesian HealthCare to expand suicide screening age groups


Suicide is a serious public health concern. The death of a loved one by suicide touches all of our community. There are many factors that contribute to suicide. The goal of suicide prevention is to reduce factors that increase risk and increase factors that promote resilience.

  • Of the eighth, 10th and 11th grade students that completed the 2020 Fond du Lac County Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs (ATOD) survey, 14 percent seriously considered suicide within the past year.
  • 2019-2020 YScreen data in our community show that 13 percent of students screened had passive suicidal ideation within the past three months, and four percent had attempted suicide at least once in their lifetime.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It was responsible for more than 47,500 deaths in 2019.
  • In 2019, 12 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million made a plan and 1.4 million attempted suicide.
  • From 1999 through 2015, more than 1,300 children ages five to 12 took their own lives.

Predicting and preventing suicide attempts is crucial. Agnesian HealthCare has been utilizing a screening tool called the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS). This tool was designed to screen not only adults but also youth, ages eight to 17, regardless of their reason for seeking care. This series of yes-and-no questions, using clear, plain language, has been saving lives in 45 countries around the world.

The C-SSRS includes a maximum of six questions to quickly and simply identify whether someone might be at risk and needs help. The actual number of questions used depends on each individual’s answers, and there are several versions of the questions geared to specific populations, including friends, neighbors and family members.

Users of the tool ask people:

  • Whether and when they have thought about suicide (ideation).
  • What actions they have taken - and when - to prepare for suicide.
  • Whether and when they attempted suicide or began a suicide attempt that was either interrupted by another person or stopped of their own volition.

Starting in May 2021, Agnesian HealthCare will begin screening patients ages eight and above during hospital visits, including the emergency department and inpatient units, using this tool. It is important to know that asking these questions does not put the idea of suicide in the person’s head. Suicide can be difficult to talk about, but not asking does not help us reach those that are often suffering in silence or not sure how to talk about their thoughts themselves.

All patients who screen positive will be further assessed to determine follow-up resources needed including (but not limited to) support groups, outpatient therapy, partial hospitalization programs, psychiatry referrals or inpatient stabilization.

For minors: a parent (or guardian) can be involved throughout this process to provide support and collaborate with the health care team (unless the minor has legal evidence to prove otherwise). Family support is encouraged to help assist with reducing stigma about mental health and depression, which can be a crucial component for ongoing safety monitoring as well.

If you or a loved one is considering suicide, here are some resources:

  • Local Crisis Intervention Services: (920) 929-3535
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK
  • Text HOPELINE t 741-741
  • In emergencies, call 911

If you would like to learn more about our community’s efforts to address this serious health issue, sign up for training to learn how to help those considering suicide or would like to volunteer to help one of our many efforts to decrease suicide, such as YScreen and Destination Zero, please visit

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