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

J Affect Disord. 2017 Mar 1;210:294-302. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.12.035. Epub 2016 Dec 24.


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.

Keywords: Doctor suicide prevention; General practice; Self-harm; Suicide attempt; Suicide ideation; Suicide prevention.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Primary Prevention / methods*
  • Psychotherapy
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / prevention & control
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide / prevention & control*
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control*