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Virtual patient may help future doctors prevent suicide
Date:1/4/2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. A virtual patient named Denise may help future physicians feel more comfortable and capable assessing suicide risk.

"Primary care doctors tend to be the frontline providers for people with mental illness so we need to put the same kind of educational effort into suicide risk assessment that we put into recognizing a heart attack," said Dr. Adriana Foster, psychiatrist at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University and principal investigator on an American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-funded study to determine how to do just that.

"Suicide risk assessment should be one of the must haves," said Foster, who hopes Denise, a mother and wife seeking psychiatric care for insomnia and a mood disorder, can help.

Suicide is occurring earlier and more often in the United States than ever before. Rates are up 25 percent in the last decade to 12.4 per 100,000 individuals annually. Its the second-leading cause of death for college students and third for all 15-24 year olds, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Twenty percent of high school students report having seriously considered suicide during the previous 12 months.

The new MCG study of second-year medical students is helping determine if the opportunity to ask tough questions about suicide risk to a virtual (computer-simulated) patient can help real families avoid this tragedy. Forty sophomore medical students watch a video of a physician interviewing a patient with a mood disorder. The interview includes a suicide risk assessment. Another 40 students will electronically interview Denise, who was designed by the University of Florida Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering.

Later, all the students go to MCGs Clinical Skills Center to interview an actor portraying a patient with a mood disorder. A subgroup will also interact with a second actor with a different mental health problem. These actors,
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@georgiahealth.edu
706-721-4421
Georgia Health Sciences University
Source:Eurekalert  

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