Suicide Attempts and Mental Health Treatment

June 12, 2015

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

An analysis based on data from the 2008-2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that a substantial proportion of adults who attempted suicide in the 12 months prior to the survey interview received no mental health care, or received care they felt was inadequate in the past year.  Forty-three percent did not receive any mental health treatment, including 32 percent of those who had been medically treated after an attempt. Half of those who received mental health treatment felt that they still had unmet mental health care needs.

Adults who attempted suicide reported  a variety of reasons for not receiving mental health care, including not being able to afford treatment (45.2 percent), not knowing where to go for treatment (28.5 percent), and being able to “handle the problem without treatment” (22.1 percent).

A higher percentage of non-Hispanic whites who attempted suicide in the past 12 months received mental health treatment (65.8 percent) than did Hispanics (44.4 percent) or non-Hispanic blacks (39.7 percent). A smaller percentage of past-year adult suicide attempters  without health insurance received care (44.7 percent) than did people with private insurance (56.0 percent), Medicare (67.6 percent), or Medicaid-only (64.8 percent).

The authors concluded that their findings suggest there are needs for (1) “follow-up and continuity of suicide-specific mental health treatment,” (2) public awareness efforts to help suicide attempters understand that effective mental health treatment is available, (3) “gatekeeper training to identify adults with high suicide risk,” (4) integrating  mental health treatment into  settings including the criminal justice system and emergency rooms, and (5) “culturally and linguistically appropriate public awareness programs and outreach efforts to promote help-seeking among minority suicide attempters”.

This summary is from: Han, B., Compton, W., Gfroerer, J., & McKeon, R. (2014). Mental health treatment patterns among adults with recent suicide attempts in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 104(12), 2359–2368.