Many individuals who commit suicide are seen by a primary-care provider or a medical specialist in the year before their death, but do not receive a mental health diagnosis.
“This study indicates that opportunities for suicide prevention exist in primary-care and medical settings, where most individuals receive services prior to death,” Brian K. Ahmedani, PhD, of the Center for Health Policy and Health Services Research at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, reported in Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The researchers reviewed medical records within eight Mental Health Research Network health-care systems serving eight states. A total of 5,894 health-plan members died by suicide from 2000 to 2010.
The majority of persons committing suicide (83%) had received health care in the year prior to their death, but less than half (45%) did not have a mental health diagnosis and only 24% had a mental health diagnosis in the 4-week period prior to death.
The most common visits made by patients who later committed suicide were medical specialty and primary-care visits without a mental health diagnosis. Persons most likely to make a visit in the year prior to suicide were women, persons aged 65 years or older, residents of neighborhoods with annual incomes higher than $40,000, and persons who ultimately died by nonviolent means.
“Efforts may target improved identification of mental illness and suicidal ideation, as a large proportion may remain undiagnosed at death,” the researchers wrote.