Perspective: Physician education: a promising strategy to prevent adolescent suicide

Acad Med. 2011 Mar;86(3):342-7. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31820984ad.


Many young people who present to primary care providers (PCPs) have high levels of emotional distress and/or suicidal ideation. Therefore, PCPs are in an ideal position to recognize and respond to early symptoms and distress signals that accompany suicide warning signs, yet they underrecognize mood disorders and suicidality among youth. Medical school and residency programs typically provide inadequate training on pediatric mental health and adolescent suicide prevention. Thus, PCPs lack complete knowledge of risk factors and feel unprepared to handle mental health problems among youth. In this article, the authors provide an overview of the epidemiology of adolescent suicide and describe risk factors, protective factors, and warning signs. They propose that physician education represents a promising strategy to prevent adolescent suicide, and they establish the need for improved educational opportunities that would provide PCPs with the necessary skills and supports to identify and respond to psychosocial concerns that may increase suicide risk among youth. They recommend strategies, methods, and content areas for addressing educational gaps, as well as organizational approaches to support enhanced physician education. They also suggest areas for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Education, Medical / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pediatrics / education*
  • Physician's Role*
  • Physicians, Primary Care / education*
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide Prevention*
  • Young Adult