February 22, 2012

Source: Irish Examiner
Date: 2012-02-22
Page: 1
Author: Georgina O'Halloran
Headline: 80% of suicide victims were in touch with GP

80% of suicide victims were in touch with GP

by Qeofglna O'Halloran

More than 80% of people who died by suicide had been in contact with a GP or mental health service in the year prior to their death, a study has found.

The report by the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF), which looked at 190 cases of suicide in Cork City and county between Sept 2008 and Mar 2011, also found that in 60% of cases the person had been in contact' with a GP at least four times in the 12 months before taking their lives.

The Suicide Support and Information System (SStS) pilot study was based on research with coroners, healthcare professionals and family members. More than 80% of cases involved men.

NSRF director of research Dr Ella Arensman said the findings indicated a poten- tial within GP practices to pick up on signs of depres- sion at a very early stage and to identify signs of self-harm and suicide.

"There is a very strong link between depression, self-harm and suicide.

Forty-five percent of all the suicides had a history of at least one act of self-harm.

There is so much potential with the GPs that we're not using optimally," she said.

Dr Arensman said it was generally harder to identify depression and suicidal behaviour in men.

She said the National Office for Suicide Preven- tion, in collaboration with the Irish College of GeneralPractitioners was now pri-oritising training for GPs.

Suicide awareness activistand senator John Gilroy saidthere was a need forincreased training of GPsto recognise the earlysymptoms of depression.

"One of the first symp-toms of an impendingdepression is an inability tosleep or sleep disturbance.

Very often people with animpending depression go tothe doctor with these symp-toms and the GPs don'trecognise it and prescribesleeping tablets," said MrGilrov one of the foundingmembers of Safe (SuicideAwareness- For Everyone), agroup based in the Corksuburbs of Glanmire andMayfield.

In a written statement,Dr John Ball, spokesmanfor the Irish College ofGeneral Practitioners saidthe training of Irish generalpractitioners had a "heavyfocus" on mental health,and that the complex issuesof suicide and depressionwere .dealt with comprehen-sively.

"Sleep problems arealways an indicator for fur-ther exploration for doctorsand the recommendationson any 'sleeping tablet'prescribing is suitablyrestrictive," he said.

Funding for the SSISstudy has ceased sinceMarch 2011.

Ella Arensman: GPs can identify depression signs.