Primary Care

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

Reference

  1. 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.

Learn More

  • See the Recommended Resources below selected by SPRC personnel.
  • See All Resources Related to Primary Care for a full list of materials, programs, trainings, and other information available from SPRC. Use the filters on the left to narrow your results.
  • For more on other settings and groups, see our Settings and Populations pages.
Recommended Resources
This guide shows how to develop a safety plan for patients at high risk for suicide.
This free online course is designed for providers who counsel people at risk for suicide, including mental health and medical providers.
This online training simulation helps primary care providers recognize underlying mental health disorders and build a treatment plan; charges apply.
This website provides information, resources, and tools for implementing safe suicide care.