One group of people at the sharp end, when it comes to people expressing suicidal thoughts, are GPs.
In fact, doctors are now duty-bound to ask such patients if they have any thoughts of self-harm.
"I had a fellow, who wasn't a patient of mine, who came to me looking for something to help him sleep. That was many years ago.
So, I asked him if he was suicidal. He denied it. I think he was looking for a way out."
Having dealt with patients in varying states of depression for many years, he dismissed any notion that suicide is a modern phenomenon and, likewise, that medication alone will do the trick.
"The main thing abut medication is that it doesn't work for ten days anyway, and the other terrible thing about it is, if they get a little better, they often are more motivated to kill themselves.
Counselling then is the big thing and, as for ourselves, you would like to see them regularly.
"If you think there is going to be a serious suicide incident, then you will have them assessed.
Medication would not be the be all and end all, although possibly you would give medication."
As for the role alcohol plays in suicides, he said it had a disinhibitive effect and, he suggested that, 'some but not all' of single vehicle road traffic accidents were suicides, where a driver, with drink taken, decides to end it all at the wheel.
"Alcohol has that effect for young and old. In fact, one of the things I would like to see more readily available is a low alcohol beer."
So, having touched on the patient-doctor scenario, the options and, the outcomes, where does the influence of the family enter the equation?
"If someone tells you as your patient they have thoughts of self-harm, their family is in no way entitled to know because you would be breaching confidentiality. Family considerations do put people off committing suicide.
"But, the family need to have a high level of awareness themselves and there are often situations where people accidentally might kill themselves.
I can recall one case where a girl reacted to a row and took some tablets belonging to a family member. Unfortunately, they were the wrong tablets and they killed her.
She had no notion of suicide."
As for friends and workmates, how should they react to someone articulating thoughts of self-harm?
"The main thing is for them not to say, 'Catch yourself on'. They need to take them seriously.
People who have killed themselves have mentioned the possibility of doing it at some stage in their past.
"There were always suicides.
What's happening today is there's a growing awareness, and I do believe in the 'copycat' theory. Trends / - You tend to find that older people walk into water, a lake or river.
GPs at the sharp end
Publication Fermanagh Herald
Date Wed, Apr 25, 2007
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