Suicide prevention is an important public health concern, and primary care physicians (PCPs) often serve as the first point of contact for individuals at risk. Few interventions in the primary care setting have been linked to reduced suicide attempt (SA) rates. The Continuity of Care (COC) protocol was developed to improve the primary care treatment of high-risk suicidal patients.
This study examined PCPs’ awareness of the COC protocol, its perceived effectiveness, and PCPs’ attitudes towards post-SA-discharge visits.
A survey was administered to 64 PCPs who had a recent office visit with a patient who had attempted suicide. Data were collected between May and July 2021 and analyzed anonymously.
Thirty of the 64 PCPs answered the questionnaires, giving a response rate of 47%. Most were unaware of the COC protocol. Seventeen physicians (57%) felt that the visit strengthened their physician-patient relationship, and while nearly half of the physicians (47%, n = 14) agreed they had the knowledge and tools to manage a post-SA-discharge visit, 43% of them (n = 13) preferred that the visit would have been handled by a mental health professional rather than a PCP. Analysis of open-ended questions uncovered three themes: knowledge gap, system limitation, and the PCP’s role in maintaining the COC.
The findings of this study highlighted the important role PCPs can play to prevent future SAs, as well as exposed gaps in the knowledge and system constraints that impede them from carrying out this role as effectively as possible.

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