Assessing the healthcare utilization of youth who died by suicide: A case-control study
Kohlbeck, S., Armanious, M., & Pickett, M.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth ten years old or older. Healthcare utilization prior to death by suicide is high in adults, but there is conflicting evidence in youth. The objective of this study was to compare healthcare utilization in youth who died by suicide to youth who died in a motor vehicle accident (MVC) to determine whether healthcare utilization is associated with death by suicide in youth.
This retrospective case-control study used death records from Coroners/Medical Examiners (C/MEs) for children 11–17 years old who died by suicide (case) and MVC (control) between October 2013 and October 2018 were obtained. Data from the electronic medical record (EMR) at a healthcare system was reviewed. The primary outcome was healthcare utilization. Secondary outcomes included mental health diagnosis. Data was analyzed using Fisher’s Exact Test and considered significant if p < 0.05.
The analysis included 60 youth who died by suicide and 14 youth who died by MVC. Most decedents were male (68%) and white (80%). Mean age at death was 16 years old. Only 25 decedents had a corresponding record in the EMR, with no significant difference based on manner of death (35% suicide vs 29% MVC, p = 0.8). Fourteen decedents had a known mental health diagnosis in their EMR with no difference based on manner of death (p = 0.5).
There was no difference in healthcare utilization or mental health diagnosis in youth who died by suicide compared to youth who died by MVC. Strict reliance on both of these factors when considering youth who may be at risk of suicide is inadequate. Expanding universal suicide screening to other settings, including schools or primary care, can help identify youth at risk for suicide and may prevent unnecessary deaths.