The Taipei Department of Health yesterday said that the city’s suicide prevention center and the Primary Care Association have joined hands, adding more than 2,000 primary care physicians to the center’s network to help raise public awareness of depression, recognize warning signs of suicide and provide helpful resources toward prevention.
The suicide mortality rate in Taipei was 11.4 per 100,000 people in 2016, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said, adding that the figure was lower than the national average of 16, but still meant an average of 300 suicides each year in the city over the past five years.
“While suicide prevention measures in Taipei have been relatively effective compared with other cities and counties, we are still considering how we could do even better,” he said.
About half of suicides sought medical attention within one month before committing the act, Ko said, adding that in some cases, they experienced physical problems, such as insomnia or headaches, while others were depressed.
“If warning signs of suicide had been observed when these people sought treatment from a professional primary care doctor, the cases could have been reported to the suicide prevention network established by the city’s health and social welfare departments, possibly preventing the act,” he said.
People aged 20 to 29 were most likely to be involved in high-suicide-risk cases last year and the majority suffered from relationship problems or depression, center division head Tseng Guang-pei (曾光佩) said.
Primary Care Association secretary-general Lee Chia-hsiang (李家祥) said he last year treated a man who was experiencing symptoms of the common cold.
The man said he could not sleep well and felt depressed because his business was not making money, Lee said.
Lee prescribed medication for cold and insomnia symptoms and told the man to come back after a week for another checkup, he said.
He learned that the patient had committed suicide when the man’s wife came to apply for medical records for insurance a month later, Lee said.
“He might have been saved if I had been more aware of the signs, and given him more care and attention,” Lee said, adding thatphysicians can play an important role in detecting warning signs of suicide and providing professional assistance.
People can examine their mental health condition by using the five-item Brief Symptom Rating Scale on the suicide prevention center’s Web site (http://tspc.health.gov.tw/test2.html), call the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s free hotline at 0800-788-995 or contact Taipei’ 1999 hotline (extension 8858) when in need of advice, the health department said.
Ko said that the center has received more than 52,000 calls since it was established in 2009.
Hopefully, with the addition of active detection of suicide signs by primary care physicians, the prevention network will become even more effective in saving lives, he said.
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