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Health Soc Care Community. 2016 May;24(3):260-9. doi: 10.1111/hsc.12198. Epub 2015 Feb 9.

General practitioners' perspectives on primary care consultations for suicidal patients.

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Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.
School of Social Work, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK.
Centre for Mental Health and Risk, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.


Little is known about general practitioners' (GPs') perspectives, management of and interactions with suicidal patients prior to the patient's suicide. The aims of the study were to explore GPs' interpretations of patient communication and treatment in primary care leading up to suicide and to investigate the relationship between GPs and mental health services prior to a patient's suicide. Thirty-nine semi-structured interviews with GPs of people who had died by suicide were conducted as part of a retrospective study. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using a thematic approach. The following themes emerged from GP interviews: (i) GP interpretations of suicide attempts or self-harm; (ii) professional isolation; and (iii) GP responsibilities versus patient autonomy. GPs recruited for the study may have different views from GPs who have never experienced a patient suicide or who have experienced the death of a patient by suicide who was not under the care of specialist services. Our findings may not be representative of the rest of the United Kingdom, although many of the issues identified are likely to apply across services. This study highlighted the following recommendations for future suicide prevention in general practice: increasing GP awareness of suicide-related issues and improving training and risk assessment skills; removing barriers to accessing therapies and treatments needed in primary care; improving liaison and collaboration between services to provide better patient outcomes; and increasing awareness in primary care about why patients may not want treatments offered by focusing on each individual's situational context.


general practitioner; mental health services; primary care; self-harm; suicide

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