Highlighting opportunities to close systems gaps for suicide prevention


An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association raises significant concerns about the handling of children and adolescents with suicidal ideation in emergency departments (EDs). 

Authored by Rachel Cafferty, MD, and colleagues, this piece highlights the alarming trend of increasing ED visits for mental health issues among young people in the U.S., a situation exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The article underscores a critical issue: up to 80% of children and adolescents who die by suicide had some form of healthcare interaction in the year before their death, suggesting missed opportunities for suicide prevention. 

The authors note that less than one-third of these young individuals accessed an outpatient mental health visit within a week of their ED evaluation. 

This gap in care is even more pronounced among those who have not received previous mental health treatment, leading to repeated ED visits for unaddressed mental health needs.

Three of the five recommendations from the paper are:

  • ED and prehospital clinicians should receive training and education in childhood mental health disorders and suicide prevention. 
  • Research is needed to understand the impact of the neighbourhood environment on mental health resource use and suicide risk.
  • Legislative initiatives should prioritise funding to increase the pipeline and availability of licensed mental health clinicians in schools and community settings.

Note: This is one of the More than Safety Newsletters that are shared weekly. SafeSide members in our Community of Practice have access to the full library of newsletters and resources. 

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Acknowledgement of Lived Experience
We acknowledge the lived experience of those with suicide and mental illness, their families and carers. Their preferences, wishes, needs, and aspirations are at the heart of all the work we do.

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