Youth suicide is increasing at a significant rate and is the second leading cause of death for adolescents. There is an urgent public health need to address the youth suicide. The objective of this study is to determine whether adolescents and young adults residing in states with greater mental health treatment capacity exhibited lower suicide rates than states with less treatment capacity.
We conducted a state-level analysis of mental health treatment capacity and suicide outcomes for adolescents and young adults aged 10–24 spanning 2002–2017 using data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other sources. Multivariable linear fixed-effects regression models tested the relationships among mental health treatment capacity and the total suicide, firearm suicide, and nonfirearm suicide rates per 100,000 persons aged 10–24.
We found a statistically significant inverse relationship between nonfirearm suicide and mental health treatment capacity (p = .015). On average, a 10% increase in a state’s mental health workforce capacity was associated with a 1.35% relative reduction in the nonfirearm suicide rate for persons aged 10–24. There was no significant relationship between mental health treatment capacity and firearm suicide.
Greater mental health treatment appears to have a protective effect of modest magnitude against nonfirearm suicide among adolescents and young adults. Our findings underscore the importance of state-level efforts to improve mental health interventions and promote mental health awareness. However, firearm regulations may provide greater protective effects against this most lethal method of firearm suicide.