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Keywords:

  • suicide;
  • prevention;
  • postgraduate medical training;
  • affective disorder;
  • depression

ABSTRACT

In 1983–1984 the Swedish Committee for Prevention and Treatment of Depression (PTD Committee) introduced an educational program for all general practitioners (GPs) on the Swedish island of Gotland. The primary goal was to increase knowledge about diagnosis and treatment of patients with affective disorders. The effects of the educational programs were evaluated in detail; GPs identified more patients with depressive disorders and treated them more accurately. The suicide rate on Gotland was followed, primarily to ensure that the new treatment strategies did not include a risk for the individual patients. However, it was also hoped that increased awareness of patients with affective disorders and better treatment routines could reduce the suicide rale. The suicide rate dropped the year after the educational programs were introduced. This was a statistically significant deviation both from the long-term trend on Gotland and from the trends in Sweden as a whole. Programs aiming at giving GPs increased capacity and responsibility to treat patients with affective disorders do not increase the frequency of suicide. Better primary treatment of patients with depressive disorders may reduce the suicide rate in a given area.