Family intervention prevents teen suicide

lonely footprints

In the US, 36,000 take their own lives each year. Of those, more than 4600 are between 10 and 24 years old. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for this age group.

When a young person shows up at an emergency room for treatment of self-inflicted injuries, they remain at high risk. Despite urgent need and known risk, many don’t receive mental health care after discharge. Because of this, the US Department of Health and Human Service’s National Strategy for Suicide Prevention has developed a major goal to increase rates of follow-up care after discharge for the young patients who pass through emergency rooms due to suicidal behavior.

Now UCLA researchers can contribute their findings to the effort. They have discovered that specialized mental health intervention for suicidal youth can help prior to their discharge from ER. Joan Asarnow, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA show that a family-based intervention conducted while troubled youths were still in the ER led to dramatic improvements in attendance at outpatient treatment centers.

The study looked at 181 suicidal youths at two Emergency Departments with a mean age of 15. The youths were assigned to the usual ED treatment or an enhanced mental health intervention that involved a family-based crisis-therapy session designed to increase motivation for outpatient follow-up treatment supplemented by telephone contact aimed at supporting families.

Of the participants who received the enhanced intervention, 92% followed through with outpatient care compared with 76% of the usual ED treatment group.

“The results underscore the urgent need for improved community outpatient treatment for suicidal youths said Asarnow.

Source: UCLA, ScienceDaily


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