Increased mental health visits help stem suicide

May 7, 2020
Miranda Hester
Miranda Hester

Ms. Hester is Content Specialist with Contemporary OB/GYN and Contemporary Pediatrics.

Suicide in children and adolescents is a serious public health problem. Researchers looked at one way to help reverse current trends. 

The continuing uptick in suicide trends in children and adolescents is cause for alarm and has led to many questions about how to reverse this trend. A new study in JAMA Pediatrics indicates that one potential way could be increased visits for mental health.1

Investigators used a population-based case-control study that used Medicaid data from 16 states. In the study, there were 910 suicide cases among children and adolescents from January 1, 2009, to December 31, 2013. A total of 6346 controls were matched to the suicide cases by age, sex, race, ethnicity, state, and Medicaid eligibility category.

The cohort was 72.9% male and had an average age of 15.7 years at the index date. Roughly 40% of the cohort who had died by suicide had a mental health diagnosis in the 6 months before death, compared with 17.5% of control participants. More children and adolescents who died by suicide used services before the index date than control participants. Researchers found that the risk of suicide was highest among children and adolescents who had bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, depression, schizophrenia, and epilepsy. They also found that more mental health visits in the 30 days before the index date were linked with decreased odds of suicide.

Investigators said implementing suicide screening protocols for children and adolescents that were tied to frequency of visits as well as to psychiatric and epilepsy diagnoses could have a positive impact on decreasing suicide trends in the pediatric population.

References:

1.    Fontanella CA, Warner LA, Steelesmith D, Bridge JA, Sweeney HA, Campo JV. Clinical profiles and health services patterns of Medicaid-enrolled youths who died by suicide. JAMA Pediatr. 2020;174(5):470-477. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.0002