The long-standing belief that GPs or psychiatrists can predict suicide risk by assessing patient’s ideation has come under challenge by new research from the University of NSW.
A study recently published in the BJPsych Open journal conducted a meta-analysis of data from 70 major studies of suicidal thoughts in patients.
Among the findings were that 60% of people who died by suicide had denied having suicidal thoughts beforehand when asked about this by their clinicians.
The analysis also found that only 1.7% of people who had articulated thoughts of suicide to a medical professional then went to take their own lives.
“Some people will try to hide their suicidal feelings from their doctor, either out of shame or because they don’t want to be stopped. We also know suicidal feelings can fluctuate rapidly, and people may suicide very impulsively after only a short period of suicidal thoughts,” Dr Catherine McHugh, one of the study authors, said.
The study showed that 80% of patients who were not undergoing psychiatric treatment and who died of suicide did not report suicidal thoughts when asked by their GP.
“This study proves we can no longer ration psychiatric care based on the presence of suicidal thoughts alone,” Professor Matthew Large, a clinical psychiatrist from UNSW, said.
“We need to provide high-quality, patient-centred care for everyone experiencing mental illness, whether or not they reveal they are experiencing suicidal thoughts.”