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Suicide survey in a London borough

About one million people worldwide die each year from suicide. Hence, strategies to reduce deaths from suicide are a key public health priority in many countries. A recent study by Dennis Ougrin and colleagues published in the Journal of Public Health aimed to collate relevant data from local and national sources, which will demonstrate the incidence of death from suicide and undetermined injury in the London Borough of Brent. The study also aimed to determine the characteristics of the subjects dying of suicide and undetermined injury in the locality and to identify what structures and processes are in place for recognizing, monitoring and sharing information about suicide between primary care, secondary care and public health.

The authors identified all deaths by suicides and open verdicts in the residents of Brent between February 2005 and February 2008. Health records of the identified subjects were analysed by two researchers. The annual rate of suicide in the study period was 6.8 per 100 000 inhabitants. Of the 54 cases of suicide in the , 45% had a psychiatric diagnosis and 18% were in current contact with mental health services. Hanging was the most frequent mode of suicide. Only 25% had seen their general practitioner within a month of suicide.

The study showed that a suicide survey is a feasible method of monitoring suicide, sharing data between key stakeholders and learning from the trends uncovered. The role for primary care in suicide prevention seems important but may be limited by an unexpectedly large proportion of the subjects not being in contact with primary care. In addition, the majority of the last primary care consultations were not for mental health problems This emphasizes the importance of wider societal initiative to improve suicide rates in addition to NHS interventions (e.g. reducing access to methods of suicide; and better employment, education and housing).

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