WASHINGTON, May 20 (Xinhua) -- There is not enough evidence to recommend for or against routine screening by primary care doctors to detect suicide risk in the general population, an influential U. S. panel said Tuesday.
The findings, presented in a final recommendation statement from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, applied to adolescents, adults, and older adults without a diagnosed mental health disorder or symptoms of mental illness.
However, the Task Force, a government-backed group of doctors and scientists, recommends that primary care doctors screen both adolescents and adults for depression.
If a primary care clinician has a patient who is depressed and potentially at risk for suicide, support and referrals should be shared immediately, it said.
"Primary care clinicians should remain alert to patients who are suicidal or who have existing mental health disorders and ensure that they get immediate help," Force co-vice chair Al Siu said in a press release.
Suicide is a very serious public health issue in the United States, accounting for about 37,000 deaths each year. In 2010, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
The greatest risk factor for suicide is having a diagnosed mental health disorder. For example, a lifetime history of depression more than doubles the risk of suicide among adults, and in youths who attempt suicide, 50 to 70 percent experience depression, the Task Force said.
"It is critical to find the best ways to identify those at risk (of suicide) and support them with effective treatment," Task Force member Linda Baumann said.
"More research is needed to better understand current screening tests, to develop new ones that can better identify people without symptoms who are at risk for suicide, and to create effective treatment programs for those who are identified as high risk," Baumann added.