Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode


Hosted by Editor in Chief Lorenzo Norris, MD, Psychcast features mental health care professionals discussing the issues that most affect psychiatry.

Sep 9, 2019

Show Notes

J. John Mann, MD, joins Lorenzo Norris, MD, host of the MDedge Psychcast and editor in chief of MDedge Psychiatry, to talk about the need for medicine to shift its approaches to preventing suicide. They spoke at the Focus on Neuropsychiatry 2019 meeting, sponsored by Current Psychiatry and Global Academy for Medical Education.

Dr. Mann is professor of translational neuroscience at Columbia University in New York. 

For a complete video of this interview, see this vodcast.

Don’t miss the “Dr. RK” segment by Renee Kohanski, MD, who discusses how a religious wedding she attended made her think about the distinction between cults and cultures. Dr. Kohanski, a member of the MDedge Psychiatry Editorial Advisory Board, is a psychiatrist in private practice in Mystic, Conn.

Show notes by Jacqueline Posada, MD, consultation-liaison psychiatry fellow with the Inova Fairfax Hospital/George Washington University program in Falls Church, Va.


Why are suicide rates on the rise?

  • In the United States, between 2001-2017, the suicide rate increased by 33%, making suicide the second-leading cause of death for people aged 15-34 years.
  • Why the suicide rate has increased is unclear. Factors influencing rising suicide rates include the 2008 recession and the opioid crisis; however, these events cannot fully explain the trend because they occurred in the middle of the rising rates.
  • As suicide rates increase, the medical community missed opportunities for prevention at both primary care and psychiatry visits. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that examined suicide rates and psychiatric illness found approximately half of suicide decedents did not have a known mental health condition.

Connections to untreated psychiatric illness

  • Only 22% of people with psychiatric illness who die by suicide had their mental illness treated.
  • The age of onset for major depressive disorder has been occurring earlier and indicates a greater pool of individuals is at risk of suicide. For example, during 2005-2014, major depressive episodes in adolescents increased by nearly one-third.
  • Individuals who attempt and die by suicide have a predisposition to respond to their mental illness with suicidal behaviors. This trait poses a challenge in the face of rising rates of mental illness in the United States.

 Role of treatment by primary care physicians

  • 45% of individuals who die from suicide see their primary care clinician within a month of their death. If nonpsychiatrist doctors or primary care physicians are trained to recognize depression and suicide, the rates of death and disability from depression can be decreased.
  • Most people who die by suicide are seeking help by going to a health care professional. How should the clinician respond? If a person presents with somatic complaints with no clear causes (for example, normal lab values), this is a time for the primary care physicians to ask about depression and suicide.

What steps can be taken to prevent suicide?

  • Medicine needs an updated approach in education about depression and suicide that is similar to the changes that have taken place during the opioid crisis. Now all clinicians must complete continuing medical education about pain management and opioid prescribing, which has led to a decrease in deaths from prescription pain medications. All clinicians must be able to recognize and treat depression, because it is becoming a leading cause of death and disability.
  • Clinicians need to do a better job of making connections between somatic complaints and mood disorders.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. Mental health information: Suicide. Updated August 2019.

Stene-Larsen K and A Reneflot. Contact with primary and mental health care prior to suicide: A systematic review of the literature from 2000 to 2017. Scand J Public Health. 2019 Feb;47(1):9-17.

Reed J. Primary care: A crucial setting for suicide prevention. SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Solutions.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Adolescent mental health basics. Rising rates of MDD in adolescents.

Bruce ML et al. Reducing suicidal ideation and depressive symptoms in depressed older patients. JAMA. 2004 Mar 3;291(9):1081-91.

DA Brent and N Melhem. Familial transmission of suicidal behavior. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2008 Jun;31(2):157-77.

Mohatt NV et al. A menu of options: Resources for preventing veteran suicide in rural communities. Psychol Serv. 2018 Aug;15(3):262-9.


For more MDedge Podcasts, go to

Email the show:

Interact with us on Twitter: @MDedgePsych