State Mental Health Treatment Capacity correlated with Lower Young Adult, Teen Suicides

State Mental Health Treatment Capacity correlated with Lower Young Adult, Teen Suicides

States with greater mental health treatment capacity had less non-firearm suicides amongst adolescents and young adults.

By: Alexandra de Leon Date: January 20th, 2022

Youth suicide is increasing at a significant rate and is the second leading cause of death for adolescents.

A new state-level analysis of mental health treatment capacity and suicides found that a larger state-wide mental health workforce appears to have a protective effect against non-firearm suicides amongst young adults and adolescents.

Research led by the University of Utah, School of Medicine; University of Washington, School of Medicine’s Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center; and Ohio State University, College of Public Health analyzed young adults ages 10-24, spanning over 15 years. On average researchers found a 10% increase in a state’s mental health workforce capacity associated with a 1.35% relative reduction in the non-firearm suicide rate.

This study was published this month in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“These findings suggest that greater mental health treatment capacity at a state level, that is, more mental health workers, can protect against non-firearm-related suicides among teens and young adults,” lead author Evan V. Goldstein, PhD, MPP says.

In contrast, the study points out mental health services appear to have little effect on more lethal, firearm-related suicides among younger persons.

“Our findings underscore the importance for policy considerations and for the development of interventions aimed at reducing youth suicides,” HIPRC Research Translation Program director, Laura C. Prater PhD, MPH, MHA says.

Researchers on this study say preventing firearm suicide in this population may be best addressed through the enactment of evidence-based firearm safety and storage regulations by state-level policymakers. Federal firearm regulations may also provide greater protective effects against the most lethal method of firearm suicide. Thomas Wickizer, PhD, MPH, Professor Emeritus from the Ohio State University College of Public Health, Division of Health Services Management and Policy was the senior author on this study.

The state-funded study is part of HIPRC’s Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program, whose mission is to reduce the impact of firearm injury and death through interdisciplinary research and collaboration with institutional, community and government partners.