Monday, April 29, 2013

Is Suicide Screening Effective? Still no Clear Answer

Since adults who die by suicide have often visited their primary care physician within the previous month, could routine screening for suicide by primary care physicians prevent suicides? Unfortunately, "there is not enough evidence to make a definitive recommendation for or against screening," the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force—a volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine—concludes in a draft recommendation statement.

"Some past research has shown that improved recognition and treatment of depression in primary care has led to decreased suicide rates," Timothy Lineberry, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic and a suicide expert, told Psychiatric News. "However, trying to separate out the large population at risk for suicide from those who go on to die by suicide is difficult, and as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found, there is currently a limited evidence basis for suicide-specific screening." Lineberry added, however, that "it is important to remember that for those primary care practices that use collaborative care for depression-treatment models, screening for depression is supported by the task force."

A recent study about primary care visits of those contemplating suicide found that a substantial percentage of members of the military visit a primary care physician in the month before attempting or dying by suicide. Read about that study in Psychiatric News hereMore information about suicide prevention can be found in Psychiatric News here.

(Image: Aletia/


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