Prevention of depression-related suicides in primary care
Suicide attempt and completed suicide are rare events in the community, but they are quite common among psychiatric patients who contact their GPs before the suicide event. The current prevalence of unipolar and bipolar major depressive episode in general practice is around ten percent but unfortunately about half of these cases remain unrecognized, untreated or mistreated. Major depressive episode is the most common current psychiatric diagnosis among suicide victims and attempters (56-87%) and successful acute and long-term treatment of depression significantly reduces the risk of suicidal behaviour even in this high-risk population. As over half of all suicide victims contact their GPs within four weeks before their death, primary care doctors play an important role in suicide prediction and prevention. Five large-scale community studies demonstrate that education of GPs and other medical professionals on the diagnosis and appropriate pharmacotherapy of depression, particularly in combination with psycho-social interventions and public education improve the identification and treatment of depression and reduces the rate of completed and attempted suicide in the areas served by trained doctors.
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