We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is the SAD PERSONS Scale?

By Bobbie Fredericks
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The SAD PERSONS scale is a tool used to evaluate the risk of patients who may be suicidal. The name is a mnemonic to help practitioners remember each risk factor. One point is assigned for each risk factor present, and there are guidelines on what to do with a patient scoring in each score range. The original scale is for adults, but the scale was later revised to include criteria for children.

In the adult scale, the first S represents sex or gender, A stands for age, and D represents depression. The P indicates a previous suicide attempt, E stands for the use of ethanol (alcohol) or other drugs, while R stands for a loss in a patient's rational thinking. The second S indicates a lack of social support, O stands for organized plan, N indicates the patient has no spouse, and the final S represents a chronic or debilitating sickness.

Men are more likely to go through with suicide plans than females, so they are given one point for sex, while females get zero. People who are younger than 20 or older than 75 are at higher risk. Those who have an organized, detailed plan for committing suicide are considered much more likely to follow through.

The scale for children is quite similar, with two exceptions. N stands for negligent parenting, and the final S indicates the presence of school problems. For both scales, patients scoring zero to two points are sent home and told to follow up with a mental health professional at a later date. A score of three to four necessitates close follow up and possible hospitalization, and those with scores of five to six should seriously consider hospitalization. Those scoring seven or higher should be hospitalized or committed to a mental health facility.

In an evaluation done by the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine, medical students using the SAD PERSONS scale showed a greater ability to determine the risk of suicidal patients. The control group, who did not use the SAD PERSONS scale, rated both the high- and low-risk patients as being high risk. This could lead to hospitalizations in cases where it is not truly needed.

The SAD PERSONS scale was developed in 1983, and was updated in 1996 to include children. A common place to use the SAD PERSONS scale is in the emergency room. If a patient comes in claiming to be suicidal, or having possibly attempted suicide, a quick and easy determination of the severity of the situation is often very helpful.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By ddljohn — On Jun 07, 2014

@fBoyle-- I saw a scientific study about the reliability of the SAD PERSONS scale recently and the result was that it is not very reliable when it comes to assessing those who have self-harmed. So you are right. This scale is helpful, but it should not be the only tool used to determine whether someone is suicidal.

By fBoyle — On Jun 06, 2014

Why would someone who is hospitalized for attempted suicide receive a low SAD PERSONS score and be sent home?

My niece was hospitalized after a suicide attempt recently. She was in the hospital overnight because she took medications. She was evaluated using SAD PERSONS but received a low score. The parents were told that they can follow up with a mental health professional if they want. But they were not required to and consequently, my niece has not seen a psychiatrist or psychologist.

I don't think someone who has just tried to kill themselves should be sent home without any follow up like this. This experience makes me think that the SAD PERSONS scale is not reliable.

By bear78 — On Jun 06, 2014

I was evaluated with this scale when I went to the counseling services at college due to depression. I think they evaluated me with this scale because I mentioned a previous suicide attempt. Otherwise, there are other scales and tests that are usually used to evaluate levels of depression and anxiety. I don't think this scale is used for everyone, especially if they don't seem very depressed or likely to harm themselves.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.