Primary Care

Primary care is the setting in which Americans receive most of their health and behavioral health care.  Frequent contacts and long-standing relationships between primary care providers (PCPs) and their patients make primary care an ideal setting for suicide prevention.

Why Address Suicide Prevention

  • People who die by suicide are more likely to have seen a PCP in the previous month before their death than any other health care provider.1
  • For a patient at risk for suicide, a visit with the PCP may be the only chance to access needed care.
  • National health care improvement efforts (e.g., patient-centered medical homes) are providing new ways to integrate suicide prevention into primary care.

How Primary Care Providers Can Take Action

The best way to prevent suicide is to use a comprehensive approach that includes these key components:

  • Establish protocols for screening, assessment, intervention, and referral
  • Train all staff in suicide care practices and protocols, including safety planning and lethal means counseling
  • Create agreements with specific behavioral health practices that will take referrals
  • Ensure continuity of care by transmitting patient health information to emergency care and behavioral health care providers to create seamless care transitions and follow up with at-risk patients by phone between visits
  • Provide information on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline crisis line and services


  1. Ahmedani, B. K., Simon, G. E., Stewart, C., Beck, A., Waitzfelder, B. E., Rossom, R., . . . Solberg, L. I. (2014). Health care contacts in the year before suicide death. Journal of General Internal Medicine29(6), 870–877.

Learn More

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