Sunday, November 27, 2022

Youth suicide rates are higher in areas with shortages of mental-health professionals, study of all U.S. counties finds

U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration map, adapted by The Rural Blog; click on it to enlarge.

Counties that have shortages of mental-health providers tend to have seen their rates of youth suicide increase in recent years, a study has found.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that after adjusting for demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, counties with a mental-health workforce shortage were associated with an increased youth suicide rate, and an increased youth firearm suicide rate, when compared to counties with no or partial mental health shortage designations.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among U.S. adolescents, with rates rising over the last decade.  Using youth suicide data from every U.S. county, the researchers found that among all the counties where a youth suicide occurred, more than two-thirds, or 67.6%, were designated as mental-health workforce-shortage areas. The designation is made by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, which assigns a score between 0 and 25, with higher scores indicating greater shortages. The study found that the adjusted youth-suicide rate increased 4% for every 1-point increase in the score. It also found that there were geographic disparities, with higher suicide rates in rural and high-poverty areas, where mental-health professionals are scarce. 

Dr. Aaron Carroll of the Indiana University School of Medicine and Denise Hayes of the university's School of Public Health, argued in an accompanying editorial that money directed at hiring more mental-health care professionals alone will not solve this problem.

Help is available for anyone who is thinking about suicide or knows someone who is considering it. To get help, dial 988, which is the new suicide and crisis lifeline. The three-digit mental health crisis hotline offers free, confidential support and is available 24 hours a day. (Read more)

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