Background: Suicide prevention is a health priority in many countries. Improved management of suicide risk may improve suicide prevention. This study aimed to assess the feasibility of health district-wide training in the assessment and management of people at risk of suicide; and to assess the impact of training on assessment and management skills.
Methods: Staff in three health care settings, namely primary care, accident and emergency departments and mental health services (N = 359), were offered suicide risk management training in a district-wide programme, using a flexible 'facilitator' approach. The main outcomes were the rate of attendance at training, and changes in suicide risk assessment and management skills following training.
Results: It was possible to deliver training to 167 health professionals (47 % of those eligible) during a 6 month training period. This included 95 primary care staff (39%), 21 accident and emergency staff(42%) and 51 mental health staff (78%). Of these, 103 (69%) attended all training. A volunteer sample of 28 staff who underwent training showed improvements in skills in the assessment and management of suicide risk. Satisfaction with training was high. The expected costs of district-wide training, if it were able to produce a 2.5% reduction in the suicide rate, would be 99,747 pound sterling per suicide prevented and 3,391 pound sterling per life year gained.
Conclusions: Training in the assessment and management of suicide risk can be delivered to approximately half the targeted staff in primary care, accident and emergency departments and mental health services. The current training package can improve skills and is well accepted. If it were to produce a modest fall in the suicide rate, such training would be cost-effective. However, a future training programme should develop a broader training package to reach those who will not attend.