Study finds no significant change in use of mental health services, as suicide attempts increase in U.S.

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A new study shows a significant increase in suicide attempts among adults without an increase in receiving mental health services.

Published in Jama Psychiatry, the study investigated the national trends in suicide attempts and use of mental health services among adults who attempted suicide in the past 12 months, over the decade of 2008 to 2019.

Researchers used data from 484,732 National Survey of Drug Use and Health respondents and found that the rate of suicide attempts among adults in the United States have increased over the past decade. What was concerning to researchers was that use of mental health services did not increase significantly among those individuals who attempted suicide.

Almost 70 percent of the survey participants were 35 years old or younger, 51.8 percent were women, and 65.7 percent were non-Hispanic white individuals. Rates of attempted suicides particularly increased among young adults ages 18 to 25 years old, women, those who were unemployed, never married, and among individuals who used substances, according to the study. 

In addition, the trend of increasing suicide attempts remained significant even after controlling for other sociodemographic and clinical factors, according to the study., Researchers found that several sociodemographic and clinical subgroups remained independently associated with suicide attempts, especially those with serious psychological distress, major depressive episodes, alcohol use disorder, as well as individuals who reported being divorced or separated or being unemployed, and those who identified as Black or American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.

Study participants were limited to adults aged 18 years or older who were asked if they had attempted suicide in the past 12 months. 

In addition, during the study period 34.8 percent to 45.5 percent of the participants reported needing services but did not receive them, with no significant change from 2008 to 2019.

According to the study, the number of deaths by suicide has increased by more than 60 percent in recent decades – from 29,199 in 1999 to 48,344 in 2018. It continues to be one of the top leading causes of death in the United States.

Integrative practitioners continue to see an uptick in mental health issues among their patients, especially during the prolonged pandemic. It is important to have strategies and protocols in place to recognize warning signs of suicide, as well as have the appropriate network of referrals to better support those in crisis.