Mental health service use among suicidal adolescents: findings from a U.S. national community survey

Ping Wu, Bozena J Katic, Xinhua Liu, Bin Fan, Cordelia J Fuller
Psychiatric Services: a Journal of the American Psychiatric Association 2010, 61 (1): 17-24

OBJECTIVE: This study assessed patterns of mental health service use among adolescents who had attempted suicide and examined factors associated with their service use at individual, family, and community levels.

METHODS: Bivariate and multiple logistic regression analyses were conducted with data from 877 adolescents aged 12-17 who had attempted suicide in the past 12 months and who participated in the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

RESULTS: Of the 877 adolescents, less than half (45%) reported that they had used mental health services in the past 12 months. Adolescents from racial-ethnic minority groups were less likely than whites to receive inpatient or outpatient mental health treatment, even when the analyses controlled for other demographic, individual, and family and community characteristics. Poor self-perceived health and living in a single-parent family were associated with use of inpatient services. Female gender, higher family income, participation in extracurricular activities, and the presence of symptoms of anxiety or disruptive disorders were associated with use of outpatient services. Use of school-based mental health services was associated only with participation in extracurricular activities.

CONCLUSIONS: The mental health service needs of suicidal adolescents, especially those from ethnic minority groups and lower-income families, too frequently remain unmet. Larger racial-ethnic disparities were found in use of inpatient and outpatient mental health services than in use of school-based services. Mental health services offered within school settings can reach suicidal adolescents who need services but may experience barriers to standard types of care.


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