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Primary care

Suicide prevention training

Sir, I read the recent letters with real interest.1,2 As a general practitioner (GP), I concur that suicide prevention training is important for my dental colleagues, and equally important for my GP and other primary care colleagues. There is unfortunately, presently a scarcity of well evaluated training programmes for GDPs and GPs to access, and this is concerning.

As clinicians on the frontline in primary care, the number of patients presenting to GDPs and GPs with mental health concerns and suicidal behaviours, particularly as a result of the psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on the public, may increase. There have been documented rises in suicidal thinking in young people early in COVID-19, which is worrying.3 Rates of self-harm recorded in primary care have, however, not exceeded expected annual levels through COVID-19 thus far, but there may be an unmet need which could soon show itself, particularly as we near some type of normality.4

There is an opportunity for early self-harm identification and intervention by GDPs and GPs which can prevent repeat self-harm and reduce suicide risk. This is crucial in the primary care response to suicide prevention. To achieve this, we urgently need to develop the suicide prevention evidence-base in both dental and general practice settings. Primary care networks have an important responsibility to incorporate community dental teams and prioritise evidence-informed suicide prevention training for GDPs and GPs, which if done alongside each other and perhaps remotely, would improve access, knowledge transfer, and shared learning.


  1. Benson K. Mental health training. Br Dent J 2020; 229: 701.

  2. Osman A. Suicide prevention. Br Dent J 2021; 230: 115.

  3. O'Connor R C, Wetherall K, Cleare S et al. Mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic: longitudinal analyses of adults in the UK COVID-19 Mental Health & Wellbeing study. Br J Psychiatry 2020; 1-8. doi: 10.1192/bjp.2020.212.

  4. Carr M J, Steeg S, Webb R T, Kapur N et al. Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on primary care-recorded mental illness and self-harm episodes in the UK: a population-based cohort study. Lancet Public Health 2021; 6: e124-e35.

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Mughal, F. Suicide prevention training. Br Dent J 230, 558 (2021).

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