The Child-Adolescent Suicidal Potential Index (CASPI) was developed by researchers from Cornell s Weill Medical College in the year 1999. A search of EBSCO host search engines did not reveal any articles since 2000 which revised the original instrument. Search terms were “CASPI” and “child adolescent suicidal potential index”. As with many instruments, subsequent researchers are often not aware of existing knowledge beyond those commonly employed, and so that may be why it has not been widely used.
The researchers incorporated both existing knowledge of self-reporting instruments and their own questions into the CASPI. Since these researchers are measuring suicidal potential rather than ideation the questions are broad based and include social factors such as school and home life. They carefully tested the validity of the questions, internal consistency and test-retest reliability. Test-retest reliability is an important factor in determining if a self-reporting instrument is valid over time. the CASPI had a .76 score which the authors report is consistent with other testing instruments. The retest was conducted two weeks after the initial screening, which could be a factor in its high reliability score. The CASPI instrument was measured against known suicidal potential in the population sampled in order to assess its true validity.
It appears that the researchers were successful in formulating questions with enough neutrality that children and adolescents could answer them honestly. The subpopulation of young children (less than 13 years old) is notoriously hard to assess, but this instrument appears to be consistent and valid even with younger children. It was more consistent and valid with older children, however (up to 96 percent accurate in distinguishing levels of suicidal potential). This instrument was tested with a significant number of students with a diverse cross section of socio-economic circumstances and ethnicities. This is a key element which is sometimes lacking in validating other self-reporting instruments. It also asks questions about family history, which is an important indicator of suicidal potentiality that is sometimes left out of other reporting instruments.
Self-reporting instruments are as accurate as the people taking them—if the participant completes them honestly, they will measure suicidal potential. Self-reporting instruments require an ability to self-reflect as well as a willingness to open up through the anonymity of a questionnaire. When self-reporting instruments are used in conjunction with direct observation by adult authority figures, parental involvement, and professional interventions they are even better predictors of suicidal potential.
Overall, the CASPI instrument appears to be a good addition to other suicide/depression screens for adolescents. Because it was measured against known suicidal potential and appears to be highly accurate, this instrument could safely be used by other researchers or by interested professionals as another tool in the suicide prevention arsenal. The authors note that a high number of false positives is to be expected when administering the CASPI to a general population, so it should not be relied upon to truly predict behavior in the absence of other assessments.