Herts suicide figures reveal extent of mental health conversations with GPs

PUBLISHED: 08:30 17 May 2019

Almost a quarter of people talked to their GP within four weeks of taking their own lives. Picture: Pexels.

Almost a quarter of people talked to their GP within four weeks of taking their own lives. Picture: Pexels.

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Almost a quarter of people who took their own life in Hertfordshire talked about their mental health at their doctor's surgery in the four weeks before their death, new figures suggest.

According to the figures, more than 40 per cent were known to a mental health service.

The figures relate to the 74 suicide verdicts in Hertfordshire recorded by the coroner in 2017, predominantly relating to deaths in 2016.

They are the focus of Herts County Council's latest suicide audit, which has been presented to the council's public health and prevention cabinet panel.

The audit shows the number of suicides in Herts is "relatively small" and that the rate is significantly lower than the national figure.

Mental health issues are the most common risk factor mentioned in the coroner's files and, in line with national figures, most are men aged between 40 and 59. A third of people who died as a result of suicide were known to have made a previous attempt.

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The audit also points to the recent contacts with a member of a GP practice and links to mental health services.

"The review of the coroner's records undertaken for the audit showed, with hindsight, that there remain opportunities to identify and support people at risk of suicide," says the report to the cabinet panel.

"The continued challenge is to spot and act on these signs, for individuals, for communities, and for the services across Hertfordshire."

The detail of the audit reports that 62 per cent of those who died by suicide had a mental health issue that had been recorded by their GP; 23 per cent had discussed mental health with a member of their GP practice within four weeks of their death; and 16 per cent had contacted their GP practice in the week before their death.

It also shows that 41 per cent of those who took their own life were known to a mental health service; 33 per cent had been in contact in the week before their death; and 63 per cent had been in touch in their last four weeks.

A further audit for 2018 - focusing predominantly on deaths that occurred in 2017 - is already being compiled.

It is hoped the audits will help identify any trends, and will be used to inform a revision of the Hertfordshire Suicide Prevention Strategy.

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