Intended for healthcare professionals


Giving support to a suicidal person

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 18 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5680
  1. Anthony F Jorm, professorial fellow,
  2. Betty A Kitchener, senior lecturer
  1. 1Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, Centre for Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic 3052, Australia
  1. ajorm{at}

Relatives and friends should involve a professional early on so that treatment can be given

Despite the substantial contribution of suicide to the worldwide burden of disease, evidence on effective preventive strategies is limited. A systematic review concluded that the only two strategies with convincing evidence were educating doctors about how to recognise and treat depression and restricting access to lethal methods.1 Another strategy that was promising and needed further testing was gatekeeper training. This type of training teaches particular groups of people how to identify those at risk and refer them for treatment.2 Most gatekeeper training is aimed at health professionals or others involved in human services such as teachers, police, or clergy. However, it has been suggested that family and friends may make better gatekeepers because they have the greatest contact with the suicidal person.3

In the linked qualitative study (doi:10.1136/bmj.d5801), Owens and colleagues present findings on the potential role of family and friends as gatekeepers.4 The authors carried out open ended interviews with family and friends of 14 people who …

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