Primary Care Doctors and Suicide Prevention: Warning Signs Doctors Need to Know

Primary Care Doctors and Suicide Prevention: Warning Signs Doctors Need to Know

Posted By Schick Shadel Hospital || May 18, 2015

primary care doctors and suicide prevention

Recent data suggests that nearly 40% of individuals who attempt suicide first schedule a visit with their primary care doctors, putting physicians in a critical position for suicide prevention.

Based on data from a recent survey*, nearly two out of every five individuals who attempt suicide make a visit to their primary care doctor first. This places primary care physicians in a critical role of identifying patients who are at risk for suicide and taking the necessary steps to prevent it.

Identifying Patients at Risk for Suicide

Not all primary care physicians will be experts in suicide prevention, but because they are in a uniquely strategic position to prevent suicide, they should be aware of the following factors that can help them identify patients who might be at risk for suicide.

  • Patient has previously been diagnosed by a psychiatrist
  • Patient has a pattern of self-harm or has expressed thoughts of self-harm
  • Patient has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or depression
  • Patient has been prescribed medication with a possible side effect being depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts
  • Patient has a history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Patient has recently experienced the death of a loved one
  • Patient has been abused physically, verbally, or sexually
  • Patient has a family history of suicide

Any one or a combination of these identifying factors can be enough to put primary care physicians on alert that their patient is at risk for committing suicide.

The Warning Signs for Suicide

In addition to factors that could predispose someone to be at risk for suicide, primary care physicians should take action if their patient has displayed any of the following warning signs.

  • Talking about death, dying, or a desire to be dead
  • Disclosing information about researching ways to commit suicide
  • Expressed feelings of unbearable hopelessness or pain (physical or emotional)
  • Exhibition of reckless behavior with no apparent regard for the consequences
  • Isolation from friends, family, and loved ones
  • Lack of enjoyment in the things the patient used to enjoy
  • Dramatic mood swing from depressed/anxious to extreme calm

What to Do if You Identify Someone at Risk for Suicide

If a primary care doctor or any other individual notices any of these warning signs or identifies a patient who is at risk for committing suicide, that patient should not be left alone. If the risk is high, they could be admitted to the hospital. When suicidal thoughts are accompanied by chemical dependency, Schick Shadel is here to help. We offer patients a path to a new life in just 10 days through our non-religious, non-12-step program. Contact us today to learn more.

*Ahmedani, B.K., Stewart, C., Simon, G.E., Lynch, F., Lu, C.Y., Waitzfelder, B.E., Williams, K. (2015). Racial/Ethnic difference in health care visits made before suicide attempts across the United States. Medical Care, 53(5). 430-435

Categories: Suicide Prevention

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