Reducing Suicide by Teaching Physicians

Reducing Suicide by Teaching Physicians

Katalin Szántó, M.D.

Hungary had one of the highest rates of suicide in the world when AFSP funded a study to teach general practitioners to identify and treat depressed patients to lower suicide rates.

This study was aimed at improving physicians' skills at assessing depression and suicidal ideation and behavior in patients. In one region, physicians received a four-session education program about depression and its treatment as well as access to mental health consultation. A second region with comparable suicide rates did not receive the training. Suicide rates in the five years before the program (1996–2000) were compared with rates during the five years after the program (2001–2005). Suicide rates decreased in the intervention region and the control region as well as the county and the country as a whole over the five years, with greater decreases in the region that received the education program.

In addition to reduced suicide rates, they found that in the intervention region there were increases in antidepressant prescription rates. This study demonstrates that educating the medical community about depression and its treatment reduces suicide rates.

Published article from this study:

  • Szanto K., Kalmar S., Hendin H., Rihmer Z. & Mann J.J. (2007). A suicide prevention program in a region with a very high suicide rate. [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 64(8), 914-920.