With suicide rates rising, many mental health care providers unprepared, research suggests

October 10, 2018 by Kayla Zacharias, Purdue University
Laura Schwab Reese. Credit: Purdue University

Suicide rates in the U.S. have risen a quarter since 1999, killing nearly 45,000 Americans each year. About 90 percent of those who attempt or die from suicide had a diagnosable mental disorder, yet most states don't require suicide-related training for mental health care providers.

A new case study from Colorado, which has one of the highest in the country, found that many providers don't think they're fully prepared to deal with and would support requirements for . The findings were published in the Journal of Public Health Policy.

"Mental health care providers are the frontline in response; if a teacher or friend thinks someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, they're going to send them to a provider," said Laura Schwab Reese, an assistant professor of health and kinesiology at Purdue University who led the study. "Whether there's a mandate for on-going training or graduate education is requiring some classwork in suicide risk-assessment and management, we want mental health care providers to be ready."

Before focusing on Colorado, the researchers considered every state's requirements for suicide-related training for therapists, social workers and psychologists, which make up the vast majority of the mental health workforce. At the time of the study, only Washington, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Nevada and Utah required some form of suicide-related training for their mental health providers.

In a survey of more than 2,000 providers in Colorado, only 40 percent reported participating in suicide prevention training at least twice in the past five years, while 25 percent had no such training. Half of those surveyed had had a client attempt suicide, and more than one-third had a client who died by suicide, illustrating the necessity of suicide-related training for mental health professionals today.

"Much of Colorado is designated as having a mental health provider shortage," Schwab Reese said. "If many of the providers there can't address suicide, it's really difficult to find someone else."

More than 80 percent of survey responders supported requiring mental practitioners to have some form of suicide-related education after graduate school. However, many said finding adequate training can be difficult, as much of the existing education on suicide is geared toward a lay audience.

Many respondents said that post-graduate training would be the best way to prepare providers, as graduate coursework would need substantial changes to address the education gap and it wouldn't reach providers already practicing.

"We need to take a look at how mental in each state are trained," Schwab Reese said. "At the time we did the research, Indiana also didn't require suicide-related training, which means there isn't a systematic requirement for providers in Indiana to be trained in suicide prevention or response."

Explore further: Suicide: A public health crisis

More information: Laura M. Schwab-Reese et al. Should suicide prevention training be required for mental health practitioners? A Colorado, United States case study, Journal of Public Health Policy (2018). DOI: 10.1057/s41271-018-0141-0

Related Stories

Suicide: A public health crisis

September 14, 2018
Each day in the United States, 123 people take their own lives. For each of those deaths, at least 25 more people attempt suicide.

Opioid overdoses, depression linked

October 3, 2018
The link between mental health disorders and substance abuse is well-documented. Nearly one in 12 adults in the U.S is depressed, and opioid-related deaths are skyrocketing. As these numbers continue to climb, some mental ...

Older adults may need better follow-up after ER screenings for suicide

August 9, 2017
According to the World Health Organization, suicide rates for men over the age of 70 are higher than in any other group of people. In 2015, almost 8,000 older adults committed suicide in the U.S., and the proportion of suicides ...

Broader firearm restrictions needed to prevent suicide deaths

July 4, 2017
Limiting firearm access only for persons with a mental health condition or those who previously attempted suicide likely is not enough to reduce suicide deaths. The brief research report is published in Annals of Internal ...

Researchers develop new models for predicting suicide risk

May 24, 2018
Combining data from electronic health records with results from standardized depression questionnaires better predicts suicide risk in the 90 days following either mental health specialty or primary care outpatient visits, ...

Primary care targeted for suicide prevention efforts

April 11, 2011
Forty-five percent of the 32,000 Americans who take their own lives each year visit their primary care provider within one month of their death. Ninety percent have a mental health or substance abuse disorder, or both. Yet ...

Recommended for you

Linguistic red flags from Facebook posts can predict future depression diagnoses

October 15, 2018
In any given year, depression affects more than 6 percent of the adult population in the United States—some 16 million people—but fewer than half receive the treatment they need. What if an algorithm could scan social ...

Study suggests biological basis for depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances in older adults

October 15, 2018
UC San Francisco researchers, in collaboration with the unique Brazilian Biobank for Aging Studies (BBAS) at the University of São Paulo, have shown that the earliest stages of the brain degeneration associated with Alzheimer's ...

Early changes to synapse gene regulation may cause Alzheimer's disease

October 15, 2018
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, involving memory loss and a reduction in cognitive abilities. Patients with AD develop multiple abnormal protein structures in their brains that are thought to ...

Clues that suggest people are lying may be deceptive, study shows

October 12, 2018
The verbal and physical signs of lying are harder to detect than people believe, a study suggests.

How to avoid raising a materialistic child

October 12, 2018
If you're a parent, you may be concerned that materialism among children has been on the rise. According to research, materialism has been linked to a variety of mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, as ...

The long-term effects of maternal high-fat diets

October 12, 2018
If a mother eats a high-fat diet, this can have a negative effect on the health of her offspring—right down to her great-grandchildren. This is the conclusion drawn by researchers at ETH Zurich from a study with mice.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.