Suicide Prevention: Using Graduation as a Transformative Tool

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Pedro Anderson Ferreira Quirino, student of the fifth year of Medicine at the University of Pernambuco campus Serra Talhada and Mr. Alexandre dos Santos Lima, doctor from the Mauricio Nassau University Center – UNINASSAU . They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


In recent years, the increase in suicide rates in Brazil and worldwide demonstrates the need to develop activities that propose to discuss the theme. In Brazil, the World Health Organization shows that 24 people commit suicide daily. A national study found that northeastern region recorded the highest percentage growth in suicide rates in 2000-2012 period. Although still below the national average (5.4/100,000 inhabitants), the suicide rate in the region jumped from 3.0/100,000 inhabitants in 2000 to 5.2/100,000 inhabitants in 2012. Second most populous state in the northeast region, Pernambuco has one of the lowest suicide rates in the country, with 3.43 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. However, it is notorious that cities in the interior of the state have rates higher than the national and state averages. An example of this is our municipality, Serra Talhada, which reported in 2013 a suicide rate of 7.22 deaths per 100,000 people.

How can we then act against this alarming local municipal reality?

As professionals of a basic health unit, we first need to discuss our role as a key player in suicide prevention, after all, in a reality where we try to go against the old Brazilian emergency care addiction, we know that primary care professionals are the ones that really know the patients. We can then gain their trust and must still be able to see if they have somatic symptoms, are more tired, maybe depressed, or if they are already depressed and are getting worse from depression.

To get us professionals to know how to identify and deal with these patients, however, we must first rethink the health degrees, as they should all take time to address the issue of suicide risk and its prevention. It is necessary to train people with more commitment, with more care. There is a lot of talk about humanization, but it is necessary to have a better education of all health professionals and, above all, of the doctor.

How then to insert this subject in graduation? What can we do to incite discussion at our university?

We believe that, like primary care itself, basic measures have great potential for effectiveness. Thus, the mere fact of being present at the undergraduate level taking these data to expose can already promote in students the need to discuss mental health and suicide prevention.

In addition, inserted with student representation, we can also seek to create a discipline focused only on the discussion of mental health, changing the reality of professionals already undergraduate, which in medium term can already have a positive effect on the primary care care.

Thus, we believe that the change from the hospital-centered model to a primary care model to which Brazil tries to move is extremely necessary. However, for such a change – given through both the Unified Health System and the Psychiatric Reform – to be effective, it must also be accompanied by changes in the curricula of health professionals.

About the author

Pedro Anderson Ferreira Quirino, student of the fifth year of Medicine at the University of Pernambuco campus Serra Talhada. President of the Local Committee IFMSA Brazil UPE-ST. Member of the National Team of Human Rights and Peace of IFMSA Brazil. Trainer in Medical Education at IFMSA.

Alexandre dos Santos Lima, doctor from the Mauricio Nassau University Center – UNINASSAU, acts at the Bom Jesus II Basic Health Unit in Serra Talhada-PE, Brazil. Preceptor of the Family and Community Medicine Internship of the University of Pernambuco campus Serra Talhada and of the IFMSA Brazil UPE-ST Family and Community Medicine Exchange.

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