Research shows that a lot of people who take their lives to suicide visit their GPs in the days and weeks before their death.
A new survey is being introduced to general practices around the region, to identify any patients who may be in distress.
The simple questionnaire is completed by patients on an iPad in the waiting room, their answers are then swiftly relayed to their doctor, who can address any issues during their consultation.
Coordinare and the Black Dog Institute have joined forces to introduce StepCare, to screen every adult patient who attends a general practice.
Coordinare coordination consultant Paul Lillyman said the program had been rolled out in four practices in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, including Terralong Street Surgery in Kiama, and 14 other practices around the region had expressed interest.
“This is another step in getting more effective intervention for people who may not know how to raise their concerns,” he said.
“This process give people access to the care most appropriate to them and in a timely manner.”
Mr Lillyman said the survey was very simple, and would only take patients a few minutes to complete.
“These people may be visiting their doctor for lack of sleep or stress but often the underlying issue is anxiety or stress,” he said.
“The questionnaire asks people how they’ve been feeling over the past few days, it then focuses on the key factors around anxiety and depression and substance abuse, particularly around alcohol.”
Dr Fiona Shand, of the Black Dog Institute, said people with suicidal behaviour frequently paid visits to their GPs in the weeks or days before suicide, making them ideal candidates to identify those at risk.
“Up to 45 per cent of individuals who died by suicide saw their GP within one month prior to their death, and up to 20 per cent saw their GP within one week before death,” she said.
“Excellent GP care has been shown to significantly decrease deaths and attempts, particularly when integrated into a multifaceted suicide prevention program, such as the Lifespan systems approach.”
Dr Shand said strong GP care had lead to decrease in total suicide rates.
“[This suggests] that education and capacity building for primary health care professionals is one of the most promising interventions to reduce suicide rates,” she said.
General practices interested in providing this new service can contact Coordinare at 1300 069 002.
Community members have also been encouraged to take part in the Question Persuade Refer- QPR suicide prevention training course. For more, visit www.suicidepreventioncollaborative.org.au/QPR.
If you’d like to talk to anyone about the issues raised in this article call Lifeline on 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or MensLine 1300 789 978.