Controversies in Management: Prevention is possible if doctors are taught howBMJ 1994; 309 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.309.6958.861 (Published 01 October 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:861
- H G Morgan
- Department of Mental Health, University of Bristol, BristolBS2 8DZ.
As I passed through the Avon Gorge on my way into work I saw the emergency services below the Clifton suspension bridge reaching out to the body of someone who had committed suicide. It made me reflect on the terrible psychological pain that forces someone to carry out such an awful irrevocable act - one which to most of us seems inconceivable. I firmly believe that healthcare professionals should attempt to prevent suicide in those who consult them and that it is feasible to try. Clearly, it would be silly to argue that we can prevent all suicides: the task is simply to try to prevent those suicidal deaths that might be avoided. The American psychiatrist George Murphy expressed neatly how little reward there is for undertaking the task but he remains optimistic: “If suicide is prevented the patient will live. Yet to quantify this effect is impossible. The absence of suicide generates no data. Thus we can never prove what has been accomplished, yet we can hardly doubt that it occurs.”1
Some people may feel that suicide is such a private matter that others should not attempt to intervene. Yet those who are suicidal remain …