Psychiatrists are among the key professionals who can play an important role in suicide prevention. Unfortunately, psychiatrists are often left out in suicide prevention initiatives. Sometimes, they are inadvertently overlooked. At other times, they are deliberately left out by people who should know better. Yet, in the final analysis, if we are to make any real progress in suicide prevention efforts, we need to enhance the role of psychiatrists. That is because psychiatrists are, for the most part, the relevant professionals in these matters. It is the psychiatrists who really understand the mental processes that predispose some people to suicide. It is psychiatrists who know how such mental processes can be dealt with, to end up with better outcomes. Ideally, in suicide prevention efforts, other professionals should play supporting roles, with psychiatrists providing the leadership. But what we tend to see is different. What we tend to see are scenarios where psychiatrists are relegated to supporting roles, even as other professionals (who really know nothing about these matters) take the leading roles. That is why many suicide psychiatrists initiatives don’t seem to make much headway.

To enhance the role of psychiatrists in suicide prevention, we need to get people to view suicide as a mental health issue. Currently, many people are still in the stage where they view suicide as a moral issue or as something that is purely caused by life frustrations. Until we can get people to view it as a mental health issue, we won’t make much headway.

Further, having gotten people to view suicide as a mental health issue, we need to get them to understand that it is from psychiatrists that they can get real help.

On the other hand, psychiatry courses need to emphasize more on suicide prevention. In many medical schools, the topic of suicide prevention is dealt with as a ‘by-the-way’ – when tackling illnesses such as depression. We need to move towards a scenario where suicide prevention can be offered as a course unit on its own, with many credit hours going to it.