GPs in training to cut suicide rate in Wales

GPs in Wales are being encouraged to sign up to a training programme aimed at improving the methods used by all health, social care and emergency services professionals to support people at risk of suicide.

The programme called applied suicide intervention skills training (ASIST) is being piloted in Wales by Mind Cymru and involves a two-day course offering intensive training in recognising and dealing with those who have considered suicide.

Figures show the prevalence of suicide among young men in Wales is now five times higher than in England. Suicide is the leading cause of death in young men living in Wales.

The National Office for Statistics has estimated that 3.9 per cent of the population have thoughts of suicide in any one year.

The Samaritans believe the figure is around 5 per cent, accounting for between 100,000 - 150,000 people, in Wales.

According to Mind Cymru, Wales has a higher suicide rate among young men compared with England because of its rurality.

This increases feelings of isolation and means there is less access to specialist services.

Alan Briscoe, the ASIST project manager, said that GPs were a target group for the course as many did not have specific training in 'the specialist people skills' needed in dealing with these cases.

'GPs have a big role to play. They are often the first port of call for those with mental health problems and it is important that they are equipped not just in the communication skills but with the knowledge of where to refer on to,' he said.

ASIST, which has Welsh Assembly backing and was developed in New Zealand 23 years ago, is being piloted across Wales through three Mind Cymru centres in Aberystwyth, Torfaen and Vale of Clwyd.

Other key elements of the course are to promote partnership working and to help all professionals in knowing the right service to refer the patient to.

Mr Briscoe said that the emphasis on partnership could reduce GP workload.

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