Preventing Youth Suicide: More Early Detection and Continued Care Needed

Preventing Youth Suicide: More Early Detection and Continued Care Needed

Posted: December 8, 2014

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Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death among young people, and while many studies have looked at suicide risk factors, “with the exception of coroner’s reports or media scandals following a lawsuit, little research or documentation exists on the adequacy of services,” says Johanne Renaud, M.D., M.Sc., FRCPC. Dr. Renaud, a 2008 NARSAD Young Investigator grantee at McGill University has now conducted research detailing the gaps in the mental health care system that prevent more people who need help from seeking it.

Dr. Renaud and her colleagues, including 2008 Independent Investigator Grantee Gustavo Turecki, M.D., Ph.D., published their study October 16th in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Their research highlighted specific issues that need to be addressed, including proper coordination and continuation of care for young people experiencing problems, and better mental health promotion.

The researchers evaluated the psychiatric profiles and health care needs of 67 individuals who died by suicide and 56 living control subjects, all under age 25 in Quebec, Canada. Interviews with key people––typically, a parent, sibling, or spouse––and hospital data were used to determine diagnoses for the suicide group as well as the services needed and which, if any, were provided around the time of death.

Compared to control subjects, suicide victims were more likely to suffer from mental health problems. They were also more likely to need services aimed at addressing substance use, depression, and other suicide-related problems. Yet tragically, despite this high level of psychopathology and need for care in the suicide group, less than half of these individuals received any form of service within a year of their death. Only about 20 percent received specialized mental health services.

With better follow-up and monitoring of patients and the development of strategies to bring people with health issues to medical attention, mental health professionals will be able to properly identify and ultimately save more suicidal patients under the age of 25, the researchers concluded.

“We show the need to urgently take action to address these identified deficits to prevent further loss of life in our young people,” said Dr. Renaud.

Read the abstract.