Mental Health Workforce Shortages Tied to Increase in Youth Suicides
A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that a mental health workforce shortage designation was associated with an increased youth suicide rate compared with no or partial designation and an increased rate of youth firearm suicide, after adjusting for socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. The researchers, led by Jennifer Hoffman, MD, MS, of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, determined that for counties with an assigned numeric workforce shortage score, every one-point increase resulted in a 4% increase in the adjusted youth suicide rate. The retrospective study included data from all U.S. counties and all suicides among youth aged 5 to 19 from January 2015 through December 2016 obtained from death certificates through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Compress Mortality File, as well as publicly available health professional shortage area data from the Health Resources and Services Administration. During the study period, there were 5,034 youth suicides, with an annual suicide rate of 3.99 per 100,000 youth. The study also found that 67.7% of U.S. counties were designated as mental health workforce shortage areas. These counties had lower rates of insurance, lower educational attainment, higher unemployment rates, higher poverty rates, and a larger share of white residents, and generally were more rural than counties with partial or no such designations. The study authors said, "Prospective studies are needed to determine whether improvements in mental health professional workforce shortages at the county level will reduce youth suicides."
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