[psychiatry-research] Who's Minding The Store On Adolescent Suicide?
- Who's Minding The Store On Adolescent Suicide?
While primary care providers are in a unique position to help prevent
adolescent suicide, most don't routinely screen their young patients for
suicidal behavior or associated mental and physical risk factors, according
to researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
The study was published in the February 2000 issue of the Archives of
Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
Suicide is the third leading cause of mortality among persons ages 10 to 19,
following motor vehicle crashes and homicide. Senior author Diane
Frankenfield, DrPH stated, "Primary care providers may be the sole source of
medical care for this population and thus could serve a ‘gatekeeper' role in
identifying and referring high-risk youths and families.
"We recommend that physicians screen their adolescent patients for
psychosocial problems at all visits to ensure no missed opportunity." (Over
70 percent of young people ages 10 to 19 see a physician at least once a
In May 1995, researchers mailed a questionnaire to all currently practicing
pediatricians and family physicians on the mailing lists of the Maryland
chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of
The questions concerned physicians' impressions of the prevalence of
adolescent suicidal behavior; whether the physicians screened for individual
suicidal risk factors or counseled patients about injury prevention; and
whether barriers existed to physician intervention. Sixty-six percent of
those surveyed -- 693 physicians -- responded.
"Our most startling findings," according to co-author Susan Baker, MPH,
professor at the Center for Injury Research and Policy, Johns Hopkins School
of Public Health, "were that 47 percent of these physicians reported that one
or more of their adolescent patients had attempted suicide in the previous
year, and that only 23 percent screened for risk factors for suicide."
Despite the substantial proportion of primary care providers who had
encountered suicidal adolescent patients, over 75 percent of them still did
not routinely screen their patients for suicidal behavior and associated risk
factors, such as depression, substance abuse or a history of physical abuse.
Seventy-two percent of physicians did report that they were interested in
receiving more training on preventing adolescent suicide.
Funding for this study was provided by The Center for Injury Research and