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[ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

Adolescent suicide psychological autopsy study: Barriers to mental health treatment

Michelle Ann Moskos, PhD, MPH1, Lenora Olson, MA1, Doug Gray, MD2, and Sarah Frazier, BS1. (1) Intermountain Injury Control Research Center, University of Utah, 615 Arapeen Drive, Suite 202, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, 801-585-9511, michelle.moskos@hsc.utah.edu, (2) Child and Adolescent Specialty Clinic, University of Utah, 421 Wakara Way, Suite 143, Salt Lake City, UT 84108

Purpose: To improve our understanding of youth suicide by identifying barriers to mental health treatment. Methods: With parental permission, 270 contacts of the 49 families of the deceased were interviewed to evaluate barriers to mental health treatment. Questions evaluated history of mental health treatment, type and extent of health insurance coverage and barriers to treatment including “the family couldn’t afford help,” or “did not know where to go for help.” Results: The largest barriers to treatment were consistent among parent, sibling, and friend interviews: the deceased, “believed nothing could help, perceived seeking help as a sign of failure or weakness, reluctant to admit to having problems, too embarrassed to seek help, and denied his/her problems.” Parents and friends differed as to whether or not the suicide could be related to the decedent’s mental health. A majority of parents, friends, relatives, and other persons attributed the suicide to relationship problems. The majority of friends (64%) attributed the suicide to an untreated mental illness. The majority of parents (65%) could identify their child as having specific mental illness, and a third of those children had current prescriptions for psychotropic medication, yet none had a positive toxicology screen for psychotropics at the time of death. Conclusions: Parents report high rates of psychiatric diagnoses among their children. Parents, siblings, and friends generally agree on barriers to treatment for youth at risk for suicide. These barriers reflect denial and stigma associated with mental illness.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Suicide, Barriers to Care

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

[ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

Child and Adolescent Injuries

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA