Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents. Many suicidal youths treated in Emergency Departments (EDs) do not receive follow-up treatment, as advocated by our National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. We compared two strategies for improving rates of follow-up treatment. Methods Randomized controlled trial in which suicidal youths at two EDs (N=181; aged 10Ð18) were individually randomized between April 2003 and August 2005 to one of two conditions: an enhanced mental health intervention involving a family-based cognitive-behavior therapy session in the ED designed to increase motivation for follow-up treatment and safety, supplemented by care linkage telephone contacts after discharge; or Usual ED-Care enhanced by provider education. Assessments were conducted at baseline and at about 2-months after ED/hospital discharge. The primary outcome measure was rates of outpatient mental health treatment after discharge. Results Intervention patients were significantly more likely to attend outpatient treatment, as compared to usual ED-Care patients (92% vs 76%, p=.004). The intervention group also had a significantly higher rate of psychotherapy (76% vs 49%; p=.001); combined psychotherapy and medication (58% vs 37%; p=.003); and significantly more psychotherapy visits (mean 5.3 vs 3.1; p=.003). Neither the ED intervention nor community outpatient treatment (in exploratory analyses) was significantly associated with improved clinical/functioning outcomes. Conclusions Results support efficacy of the enhanced ED intervention for improving linkage to outpatient mental health treatment, but underscore the need for improved community outpatient treatment to prevent suicide/suicide attempts and poor clinical/functioning outcomes in the high-risk youths treated in EDs for suicidality.
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