Primary care is the setting in which Americans receive most of their health and behavioral health care. Frequent contacts and long-standing relationships between primary care providers (PCPs) and their patients make primary care an ideal setting for suicide prevention.
Why Address Suicide Prevention
- People who die by suicide are more likely to have seen a PCP in the previous month before their death than any other health care provider.1
- For a patient at risk for suicide, a visit with the PCP may be the only chance to access needed care.
- National health care improvement efforts (e.g., patient-centered medical homes) are providing new ways to integrate suicide prevention into primary care.
How Primary Care Providers Can Take Action
The best way to prevent suicide is to use a comprehensive approach that includes these key components:
- Establish protocols for screening, assessment, intervention, and referral
- Train all staff in suicide care practices and protocols, including safety planning and lethal means counseling
- Create agreements with specific behavioral health practices that will take referrals
- Ensure continuity of care by transmitting patient health information to emergency care and behavioral health care providers to create seamless care transitions and follow up with at-risk patients by phone between visits
- Provide information on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline crisis line and services
- Ahmedani, B. K., Simon, G. E., Stewart, C., Beck, A., Waitzfelder, B. E., Rossom, R., . . . Solberg, L. I. (2014). Health care contacts in the year before suicide death. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 29(6), 870–877.
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- For more on other settings and groups, see our Settings and Populations pages.