FRIDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Although the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide is the
third leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24 years, a new
study shows few suicidal teens are getting the mental health
treatment they need.
The researchers found only 13 percent of teenagers with suicidal
thoughts visited a mental health professional through their health
care network, and only 16 percent received treatment during the
year, even though they were eligible for mental health visits
without a referral and with relatively low co-payments.
Even when researchers combined various types of mental health
services, such as antidepressants and care received outside their
health network, only 26 percent of teens contemplating suicide
received help in the previous year.
"Teen suicide is a very real issue today in the United States. Until now, we've known very little about how much or how little suicidal teens use health care services. We found it particularly striking to observe such low rates of health care service use among most teens in our study," the study's lead author, Carolyn A. McCarty, of Seattle Children's Research Institute and research associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said in a Seattle Children's Hospital news release.
In the study, researchers analyzed the use of health care
services among 198 teens ranging in age from 13 to 18 years. Half
of the teenagers had had suicidal thoughts; the other half did
Although identifying teens with suicidal thoughts is critical,
the researchers revealed mental health services were underused
among all of the teens studied. Although 86 percent of the teens
with suicidal thoughts had seen a health care provider, only 13
percent had seen a mental health specialist. Moreover, just 7
percent received antidepressants, the study found.
Meanwhile, only 10 percent of those without suicidal thoughts
had received any mental health visits within the Group Health
Cooperative system in the prior year.
Although the myth that suicidal thoughts are a normal part of
growing up still persists, the findings suggest suicidal tendencies
are often accompanied by trouble in school or with relationships,
making mental health care even more important.
"We know that asking teens about [suicidal thoughts] does not worsen their problems," said McCarty. "It's absolutely crucial for a teen who is having thoughts of self-harm or significant depression to be able to tell a helpful, trustworthy adult."
The researchers added that primary care physicians should be
screening teenagers for depression and suicidal thoughts.
"Effective screening tools are available, as are effective
treatments for depression," McCarty noted.
The study was published in the September issue of
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
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