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Concerns have been expressed about the impact that screening for risk of
suicide may have on a person's mental health.
To examine whether screening for suicidal ideation among people who
attend primary care services and have signs of depression increases the
short-term incidence of feeling that life is not worth living.
In a multicentre, single-blind, randomised controlled trial, 443 patients
in four general practices were randomised to screening for suicidal
ideation or control questions on health and lifestyle (trial
registration: ISRCTN84692657). The primary outcome was thinking that life
is not worth living measured 10–14 days after randomisation. Secondary
outcome measures comprised other aspects of suicidal ideation and
A total of 443 participants were randomised to early (n
= 230) or delayed screening (n = 213). Their mean age
was 48.5 years (s.d. = 18.4, range 16–92) and 137 (30.9%) were male. The
adjusted odds of experiencing thoughts that life was not worth living at
follow-up among those randomised to early compared with delayed screening
was 0.88 (95% CI 0.66–1.18). Differences in secondary outcomes between
the two groups were not seen. Among those randomised to early screening,
37 people (22.3%) reported thinking about taking their life at baseline
and 24 (14.6%) that they had this thought 2 weeks later.
Screening for suicidal ideation in primary care among people who have
signs of depression does not appear to induce feelings that life is not
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