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Mental health
Primary care suicide screening: the importance of comprehensive clinical assessment
  1. Nicola Clibbens
  1. School of Healthcare, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nicola Clibbens, School of Healthcare, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK; N.Clibbens{at}

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Commentary on: Richards JE, Hohl SD, Whiteside U, et al. If you listen, I will talk: the experience of being asked about suicidality during routine primary care. J Gen Intern Med 2019;34:2075–82. doi: 10.1007/s11606-019-05136-x.

Implications for practice and research

  • Suicide screening in primary care is acceptable to people when they feel cared for, the assessor has time to listen and they are informed about what will happen.

  • Suicide screening should not be limited to the use of measurement tools, more accurate assessment is achieved using a comprehensive clinical assessment.


Suicide is preventable yet worldwide ~800 000 people die by suicide every year. Suicide prevention is a global public health priority1 and primary care providers are important gatekeepers in identifying people experiencing suicidal thoughts. Factors influencing the accuracy of suicide assessment include stigma preventing disclosure and fear of consequences of disclosure. Suicidal thoughts are rarely constant, varying in their presence and severity, and may therefore …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.