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Suicide Decedents in Child Welfare System Had Used Health Services

Young suicide decedents more likely to have accessed mental health services, physical health services; visited ED

a boy looking sad

MONDAY, March 8, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Suicide decedents in the child welfare system are more likely to have been diagnosed with mental and physical conditions and to have accessed mental or physical health services before their death, according to a study published online March 8 in Pediatrics.

Donna A. Ruch, Ph.D., from The Abigail Wexner Research Institute at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues conducted a retrospective case-control study involving 120 suicide decedents (aged 5 to 21 years) and 1,200 controls matched on sex, race, and ethnicity. The suicide decedents had an open case in the Ohio Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System between 2010 and 2017.

The researchers found that compared with controls, youth in the child welfare system who died by suicide were significantly more likely to have experienced out-of-home placements and to have been diagnosed with mental and physical conditions. In the one and six months before death, suicide decedents were twice as likely to have accessed mental health services, regardless of the health care setting. The percentage of suicide decedents using physical health services six months before their death or index date was significantly elevated. Suicide decedents were also significantly more likely to have visited the emergency department for both physical and mental health conditions.

"Given that high-risk youth frequently present to medical settings, we as health care providers have not only an opportunity but a responsibility to implement effective suicide prevention strategies and be the bridge to lifesaving interventions," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

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