Racial/Ethnic differences in health care visits made before suicide attempt across the United States

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Medical Care


BACKGROUND: Suicide is a public health concern, but little is known about the patterns of health care visits made before a suicide attempt, and whether those patterns differ by race/ethnicity.

OBJECTIVES: To examine racial/ethnic variation in the types of health care visits made before a suicide attempt, when those visits occur, and whether mental health or substance use diagnoses were documented.

RESEARCH DESIGN: Retrospective, longitudinal study, 2009-2011.

PARTICIPANTS: 22,387 individuals who attempted suicide and were enrolled in the health plan across 10 health systems in the Mental Health Research Network.

MEASURES: Cumulative percentage of different types of health care visits made in the 52 weeks before a suicide attempt, by self-reported racial/ethnicity and diagnosis. Data were from the Virtual Data Warehouse at each site.

RESULTS: Over 38% of the individuals made any health care visit within the week before their suicide attempt and ∼95% within the preceding year; these percentages varied across racial/ethnic groups (P41%) within 1 week of suicide attempt. Asian Americans were the least likely to make visits within 52 weeks. Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders had proportionally the most inpatient and emergency visits before an attempt, but were least likely to have a recorded mental health or substance use diagnosis. Overall, visits were most common in primary care and outpatient general medical settings.

CONCLUSIONS: This study provides temporal evidence of racial/ethnic differences in health care visits made before suicide attempt. Health care systems can use this information to help focus the design and implementation of their suicide prevention initiatives.

Medical Subject Headings

Adolescent; Adult; Aged; Continental Population Groups; Ethnic Groups; Female; Health Services; Humans; Longitudinal Studies; Male; Mental Disorders; Middle Aged; Retrospective Studies; Substance-Related Disorders; Suicide; Suicide, Attempted; United States; Young Adult

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