“There Isn’t Really Anything I Can Do To Help.” What Responsibility Should A GP Have Towards A Patient Expressing Suicidal Thoughts?

“There Isn’t Really Anything I Can Do To Help.” What Responsibility Should A GP Have Towards A Patient Expressing Suicidal Thoughts?

When a GP is aware that a patient is having suicidal thoughts or intent, they will usually consider a number of actions, one of which may be to contact the local mental health team, in particular the Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team (CRHT). But what happens when a person doesn’t want the involvement of CRHT because they find them unhelpful? Does the duty of the GP end at this point?

On occasions, a GP will then respond by saying “There isn’t really anything I can do to help.” They explain that they are not a trained mental health professional. They may end the consultation or phone call moments later. This happens, particularly with the out of hours GP service, and it’s extremely concerning that it does. The person may hear this as “There is no help” or “There is nothing anyone can do for me”. The risks of giving such a message to a person who is having suicidal thoughts are clear.

GPs can indeed help at this point – and most do.

Consider this very different phrase: “I want to do whatever I can to help.” It’s a powerful phrase and for most patients it’s hugely reassuring to hear. For some, it is extremely surprising – and disarming – to hear it from a doctor. When low and depressed, you may place little value upon yourself. You may see yourself and your own life as inconsequential. It may be difficult to imagine that anyone else would see it as important that you survive or that anyone would spend time on you or help you. That’s one of the reasons why it is powerful when a doctor says it.

The doctor may then spend time with the patient, seeking to understand what has led to their crisis. They will ask questions not just to assess risk but also to really try to understand the reasons why they are at risk now. You show that they are important enough that you would allocate your time to them. This demonstrates that they matter, and their life matters to you… Read More>>

Source: Huffington Post

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