The effectiveness of suicide prevention delivered by GPs: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Allison Milner, Katrina Witt, Jane Pirkis, Sarah Hetrick, Jo Robinson, Dianne Currier, Matthew J Spittal, Andew Page, Gregory Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

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Background: The aim of this review was to assess whether suicide prevention provided in the primary health care setting and delivered by GPs results in fewer suicide deaths, episodes of self-harm, attempts and lower frequency of thoughts about suicide.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis using PRIMSA guidelines. Eligible studies: 1) evaluated an intervention provided by GPs; 2) assessed suicide, self-harm, attempted suicide or suicide ideation as outcomes, and; 3) used a quasi-experimental observational or trial design. Study specific effect sizes were combined using the random effects meta-analysis, with effects transformed into relative risk (RR).
Results: We extracted data from 14 studies for quantitative meta-analysis. The RR for suicide death in quasi-experimental observational studies comparing an intervention region against another region acting as a “control” was 1.26 (95% CI 0.58, 2.74). When suicide in the intervention region was compared before and after the GP program, the RR was 0.78 (95% CI 0.62, 0.97). There was no evidence of a treatment effect for GP training on rates of suicide death in one cRCT (RR 1.07, 95% CI 0.79, 1.45). There was no evidence of effect for the most other outcomes studied.
Limitations: All of the studies included in this review are likely to have a high level of bias. It is also possible that we excluded or missed relevant studies in our review process
Conclusions: Interventions have produced equivocal results, which varied by study design and outcome. Given these results, we cannot recommend the roll out of GP suicide prevention initiatives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-302
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • general practice
  • suicide prevention
  • self-harm
  • suicide attempt
  • suicide ideation
  • doctor suicide prevention

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