More than 80 percent of youth who die by suicide had some form of contact with the health care system in the year before their death, a new study finds.
“This suggests there are a lot of opportunities for prevention,” said Anne Rhodes, Ph.D., a research scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital Suicide Studies Research Unit.
“Most of these youth were seen by an outpatient physician or went to an emergency department where they could have potentially benefited from an intervention.”
Her research found that among those seen by an outpatient physician, half of young men and over 67 percent of young women were there for mental health-related reasons.
“Since not all were seen for mental health reasons, the potential benefits of screening and preventative interventions in these settings are underrated,” the researchers wrote in the study.
Rhodes and her colleagues looked at 724 young adults and teens between the ages of 10 and 25 years who had an outpatient physician visit, emergency department visit or inpatient stay in the year prior to their death. Subjects lived in Ontario, Canada.
The researchers found that young women had more outpatient physician and emergency department contact than young men, and the young women’s visits were closer to their time of death.
“We suspect that, in general, female youth are more likely than male youth to have their mental health problems detected and acted on when they present to the emergency department,” Rhodes said.
She added the emergency department may be an underused site for suicide prevention, given that high-risk groups may be more prevalent and can be more efficiently detected than in other settings.
“The role of the health care system in caring for these vulnerable youth is especially important because, given their age, many may no longer be in school and therefore, would not benefit from school-led interventions,” she noted.
The study was published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.
Source: St. Michael’s Hospital