The Cost of Suicidal Behavior

April 08, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

A recent analysis reported that the cost of suicides and suicide attempts in the United States in 2013 was $93.5 billion. More than 97 percent of this cost was in lost productivity. This cost estimate is higher than that from other sources because it is based on estimates of the actual, rather than the reported, number of suicides and suicide attempts.

The authors calculated that consistent use of psychotherapeutic and continuity of care services by hospitals could lower the U.S. suicide rate by 10 percent and save $9.4 billion dollars a year in productivity and medical costs. This represents a 2.5 to 1 cost benefit ratio. The authors also made four recommendations for improving services to patients who had attempted suicide: (1) Patients seen in emergency departments should receive a risk assessment. Those who are not hospitalized should receive a brief intervention and a rapid referral to a behavioral health provider; (2) Patients discharged from inpatient psychiatric units should be formally linked to behavioral and social services; (3) Emergency departments, inpatient services, and communities should create lists of behavioral care providers and on-call suicide experts that could provide services in urgent cases; and (4) Emergency departments and hospitals should routinely follow up with patients to ensure that they are receiving services after they have been released.

This summary is based on: Shepard, D., Gurewich, D., Lwin, A., Reed, G., & Silverman, M. Suicide and suicidal attempts in the United States: Costs and policy implications. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. doi:10.1111/slbtb.12225

SPARK Extra! Suicide and suicidal attempts in the United States: Costs and policy implications can be read or downloaded at no cost from the SPRC Library.