Updated: Monday, 19th August 2019 @ 10:17am

People who regularly visit GP 12 times more likely to commit suicide, warns Manchester University report

People who regularly visit GP 12 times more likely to commit suicide, warns Manchester University report

| By Sally Acton

Patients who visit their GP more than twice a month are 12 times more likely to commit suicide, warns a report by The University of Manchester.

The research was carried out by The University of Manchester’s National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness (NCISH).

Researchers carried out the report looking at suicides in England over 10 years between 2002 and 2011.

The final report, Suicide in Primary Care in England, which was published today,  revealed patients who sought medical advice, particularly 2-4 months prior to suicide were at a higher risk than those who did not.

Research revealed that patients who were receiving certain mental health drug combinations, such as benzodiazepines with antidepressants were also more likely to die by suicide, reflecting treatment difficulties and the severity of their illness.

Professor Louis Appleby, from The University Manchester said: “We have identified that frequent attendance can be a marker for risk, as can receiving different kinds of mental health drugs.

“GPs could therefore use frequent attendance and a need to change or add drugs as flags to help alert them to possible risks.

“Alerts of this kind are used in other areas of primary care practice.”

According to the research, people who do not seek medical advice at all are 70% more likely to end their own lives – with young males being the most likely.

“Non-attendance is hard to tackle but adding items on mental health to the NHS Health Check – offered to people aged between 40 and 74 – is a logical step,” said Professor Appleby. 

The researchers looked at 2,384 patients who died by suicide over 10 years and matched them with 46,899 living patients with similar characteristics such as age, gender and GP practice.

The Samaritans, a charity for people who may be at risk of suicide, believes that visiting a GP isn’t the only answer.

A spokesman from the Samaritans said: "Each suicide is a tragedy. Sometimes people get to a point where they feel they can’t cope, where it all gets too much to handle.

“It’s worse if people feel they are alone and they can’t talk to anyone about what’s weighing on them."

They added that talking about your situation with others can help you see it in a different light and help you move on with your life.

"It doesn’t matter what kind of problem you have, however big or small it may seem compared to the problems other people have,” the Samaritans spokesman said.

“What matters to us is how your life is making you feel.”

If you are concerned that someone you know is struggling and may be at risk of harming themselves, here are some of the key sign to look out for:

  • Being irritable or nervous.
  • A change in routine, such as sleeping or eating less than normal.
  • Drinking, smoking or using drugs more than usual.
  • Being un-typically clumsy or accident-prone.
  • Becoming withdrawn or losing touch with friends and family.
  • Losing interest in their appearance. For example dressing badly, no longer wearing make-up, not washing regularly.
  • Making leading statements, such as 'You wouldn't believe what I've been through' or 'It’s like the whole world is against me'. People sometimes say these things in the hope you will ask what they mean, so that they can talk about it.
  • Putting themselves down in a serious or jokey way, for example 'Oh, no one loves me', or 'I'm a waste of space'.

If you want to talk, call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90, email jo@samaritans.org or find the details for the local branch at www.samaritans.org.  

Image courtesy of ashley rose, via Flickr, with thanks.