Is suicide prevention properly taught in medical schools?
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Objective: To determine the need and feasibility of developing a national suicide prevention (SP) curriculum for undergraduate medical students. Design: Exploratory study using semi-structured phone interviews and surveys. Data was obtained from ten (out of 15) Australian Medical Schools (AMS), 373 medical students from one Queensland medical school, and 24 Australian General Practitioners, between April and June, 2006. Results: Convergent views of AMS, medical students, and GPs revealed a high need and support for SP curricula, especially on skills-based education. Students who previously received SP education rated themselves significantly higher on skills-based SP abilities than those who had not. Over one-third of GPs had not received SP training from their universities (37.5%), yet 66% had experienced a case of suicide among their patients, and a third recorded on average a case of suicide every two years. The majority of students and GPs rated themselves as least competent on skills-based SP capabilities, yet rated these capabilities very high in importance for the medical profession. Whilst 80% of AMS provides some form of SP education, the quantity and quality of this is divergent. All AMS indicated support for a more uniformed SP curriculum, identified priority SP topics and delivery mechanisms, and 80% agreed to participate in a future piloting of a SP curriculum. Conclusions: SP curriculum may positively impact on student's perceived competency. Skills-based SP curricula were highly recommended to improve 'hands-on' assessment, intervention and management capabilities. Further consultation is required with all AMS to specify structure and resource needs for a national SP curriculum.