The Importance of Risk Assessment in Mental Health

Updated March 23, 2017

Mental health professionals face many challenges and one of those challenges is ensuring the safety of their patient. To ensure safety, one tool that is used is called a risk assessment. A risk assessment gauges the behaviour of a patient and determines how they may react to various methods of treatment. A risk assessment is also a predictor of how the patient will behave in the future.


One important reason risk assessments are vital in the mental health profession is they gauge the psychological growth or degeneration occurring in a patient. A patient who is experiencing psychological degeneration is in need of further evaluation and a possible change in treatment. A risk assessment can predict which treatments will yield the best results.

Forecasting Violence

One concern that mental health professionals deal with is violent behaviour. A risk assessment is often needed to forecast violence and determine the likelihood a patient will resort to criminal tactics. Some mentally challenged patients could be a danger to themselves or others and a risk assessment acknowledges this danger beforehand so that precautions can be taken.

MacAuthur Risk Assessment

One popular risk assessment used to identity potential violence is the MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment. This particular tool is especially helpful in gauging how newly released mental patients will fair in the world.


According to the Psychiatric Times (See Reference 1), another problem that emerges in the field of mental health is the probability of suicide. Health professionals without a mental health background can use simple tools that improve suicide risk assessment. One such tool is a simple screening tool called SAD PERSONS. The tool SAD PERSONS rates a patient and gives them a score that is indicative or whether or not they will commit suicide. This particular risk assessment is important for people who come into the emergency room with a psychiatric complaint.


According to the book, Risk Assessment and Management in Mental Health, risk assessment is a central element in mental health practice. It is not only vital for the safety of the patient but it's also important for the health professional.

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