Nearly 37 000 Americans kill themselves each year, according to federal statistics.
But many of those deaths might have been prevented if doctors had been better
at picking up on the warning
signs of suicide, a new study suggests.
signs of suicide
"A national suicide reduction goal may be met if more primary care
doctors and specialists receive and use training to identify and treat patients
most at risk," study lead author Brian Ahmedani, an assistant scientist in
the Centre for Health Policy and Health Services Research at Henry Ford Health
System in Detroit, said in a statement from the health system.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide
remains the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and is the leading
cause of injury-related death, recently topping deaths tied to car accidents.
Failure to spot mental health
However, the new study finds that physicians often fail to spot mental
health problems in people who commit suicide, even though most of these people
consult with doctors or other health providers in the months before they kill
In the study, Ahmedani's team looked at the medical records of almost 5 900
health plan members living in eight states who committed suicide between 2000
83% of them had received medical care within the year prior to killing
themselves, and 20% had seen a health care worker the week before they died.
But, they were diagnosed with a mental health problem less than half the time –
45%, Ahmedani's team said.
infographic will help you recognise the warning signs
"The data clearly told us that although a large proportion of those who
committed suicide had health system contact in the year before their death, a
mental health diagnosis was commonly absent," Ahmedani said. "Greater
efforts need to be made to assess mental health and suicide risk. And because
most visits occurred in primary care or medical specialty settings, suicide
prevention in these clinics would likely reach the largest number of
The study appears in the Journal of General
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