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Risk of death by suicide following self-harm presentations to healthcare: development and validation of a multivariable clinical prediction rule (OxSATS)
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  • Published on:
    Suicide prediction following self-harm: are new tools any better?
    • Leah Quinlivan, Research Fellow University of Manchester
    • Other Contributors:
      • Sarah Steeg, Research Fellow
      • Nav Kapur, Professor of Psychiatry and Population Health

    Recent systematic reviews, clinical guidelines, and suicide prevention strategies suggest we should abandon the endeavour of using risk assessment to predict suicide and instead focus on clinical need. (1, 2) Does the recent carefully conducted paper by Fazel and colleagues mean that this advice should be overturned? We think not.

    At the turn of the century several of us were involved in developing risk tools for self-harm. Nearly two decades later, colleagues have used larger samples, novel methodology, and painstaking analysis to produce OxSATs. Of course, interpretation of how good tools are depends on multiple diagnostic accuracy statistics and clinical context. However, one accepted measure of overall performance is the ‘area under the curve’ (AUC).

    What is striking is that the AUC for predicting suicide in the 6 months after self-harm was nearly identical for OxSATs and the first generation scales (0.75 vs 0.71). (3, 4) What is perhaps even more striking is the very different interpretation of the findings. The authors of the recent study suggest OxSATs accurately predicts the risk of suicide whereas Steeg et al. concluded the opposite and suggested scales should not be used to determine treatment.

    What should we make of this discrepancy? In the end it perhaps comes down to what different researchers mean by ‘accurate’. A commonly used measure which may reflect real world utility is the positive predictive value (PPV) - of those rated as at...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    NK leads the suicide work programme of the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety. NK and LQ have undertaken quality improvement work for NHS England (NHSE). NK was expert topic advisor to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) self-harm guidelines and is a member of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy advisory group for England. The views of this letter are the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NHSE, NICE or the Department for Health and Social Care.