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New Dir Ment Health Serv. 1997 Winter;(76):13-38.

Late-life suicide and depression in the primary care setting.

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  • 1National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Maryland, USA.


Late-life depression and suicidal behavior in the primary care setting is a significant public health concern. The prevalence of depression in this population is substantial, yet rates of detection and treatment are far from adequate. Untreated depression has significant consequences with regard to morbidity and mortality. Although suicide is a relatively low-base-rate behavior, a substantial proportion of late-life suicides have contact with their primary care provider prior to their death; thus this offers an avenue for suicide prevention. There is a growing knowledge base concerning what constitutes barriers to the recognition and treatment of late-life depression as well as what constitutes useful screening tools and treatments for the depressed elderly. Important new findings with regard to the functional effects of subsyndromal depression, possible subtypes of late-life depression, the clinical utility of SSRIs and psychotherapeutic interventions, and innovative and collaborative models of care hold promise for advancing the science and practice of treating late-life depression.

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