Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Most Youth Who Died by Suicide Sought Health Care in Year Prior to Death

Nearly 90% of young people who died by suicide were seen by a health care professional at least once in the year prior to their death, including more than 40% who were seen in the month prior to death, a report in Psychiatric Services has found.

“In this large, geographically diverse sample of young people seeking care in nine large U.S. health systems, mental and general medical disorders were common among suicide decedents,” wrote Jordan M. Braciszewski, Ph.D., of Henry Ford Health in Detroit and colleagues. “Depression, anxiety, ADHD, and substance use disorders were the most common among those with a behavioral health diagnosis, highlighting targets for suicide prevention.”

Braciszewski and colleagues analyzed data from nine health care systems across the country that participate in the Mental Health Research Network. The overall study population consisted of 4,895 young people aged 10 to 24 years, including 445 who died by suicide between January 2000 and September 2015. The mean age of the sample was about 17 years.

The researchers found that young people who died by suicide made on average 11.4 health care visits in the previous year, compared with 6.5 among the young people who did not die by suicide. Outpatient specialty visits were most common among both groups, followed by primary care visits.

Young people who died by suicide were more likely to have been diagnosed with at least one mental disorder (51% vs. 16%) and had higher rates of nearly all mental disorders, the researchers reported. Diagnoses associated with the greatest odds of death by suicide included suicidal ideation, psychotic disorders, alcohol use disorder, and any substance use disorder. Epilepsy and sleep disorders were also significantly associated with increased risk for suicide death.

“Patients living in census blocks with low education levels were significantly less likely to be suicide decedents,” the researchers noted. “Insurance type and living in a higher-poverty census block were not significantly associated with suicide death.”

They concluded, “High rates of health care utilization among suicide decedents indicate a need for improving identification of mental health conditions and suicide risk across the health care system.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News articles “Youth Suicide Rate Increases by Nearly 60%” and “Youth Online Behavior Offers Clues to Suicidality.”

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