Identifying High-Risk Groups: A Deep Dive into the Demographics and Diagnoses Correlated with Suicide Risk

November 6, 2023


Explore the vital connections between suicide risk, demographics, and mental health diagnoses. 

Suicide rates are on the rise across different age groups in the United States, and it's become one of the top causes of death for individuals aged 10 to 64. Shockingly, about 4.8% of American adults have shared that they've had thoughts of suicide in the past year, and this issue seems to be even more concerning among our young people. 

A recent review looked to further understand the prevalence of suicide risk among individuals referred from their primary care providers to collaborative care behavioral health services. Now, what's collaborative care, you ask? Well, it's a proven model that identifies and treats individuals experiencing anxiety and depression identified in health care settings. 

The goal of the review is to understand how suicide risk varies among people with different behavioral health diagnoses. The findings can help pinpoint those who might need extra attention and care from their primary care providers and the collaborative care team. Additionally, the collaborative care team can inform primary care providers about the prevalence of suicide risk in their patient populations.

It’s all in the numbers

This review analyzed data from a sample of 37,666 individuals who were referred for behavioral health treatment by primary care providers (PCPs). The data was collected from a wide range of providers, practices and states, including rural health centers and federally qualified health centers, across 13 states. 

These individuals were part of collaborative care referred by their PCP often identified through screening. Each primary care provider in the study had an average patient panel size of around 1,500 patients. 

This research utilized one of the most extensive datasets available for studying primary care patients referred to behavioral health services. The study covered a longitudinal period from April 21, 2017, to October 31, 2022, using data stored in a comprehensive registry. Participants in the study met specific inclusion criteria, which included being enrolled in and completing collaborative care services during this time frame, receiving a primary diagnosis during treatment, and being referred to collaborative care services by their healthcare providers.


The results are in

While it’s not surprising, suicide risk varies when we consider different factors like age, location, insurance and primary diagnosis. When we look at these factors individually, we see some interesting trends. 

Age matters, with the odds of a positive suicide screen being lower for those over 65 compared to younger age groups. Location plays a role too, with Florida and Missouri residents having higher odds of positive suicide risk than those in Arizona. Insurance type matters too; people with Medicare Advantage insurance had higher odds of suicide risk compared to those with commercial insurance.

Finally, the type of mental health diagnosis also influences suicide risk. Those with diagnoses of adjustment disorder and unspecified anxiety disorder had lower odds of suicide risk than those with generalized anxiety disorder. On the flip side, individuals with bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder had higher odds of positive suicide risk compared to those with generalized anxiety disorder. These findings help us better understand the complex factors at play in suicide risk.


The takeaway

This project is one of the first to shed light on the prevalence of suicide risk in a national sample of individuals enrolled in behavioral health services, specifically collaborative care, from primary care settings. Across the entire sample, about 10% were estimated to be at risk of suicide.

These findings have important policy implications, emphasizing the need for depression and suicide screenings in patients referred from primary care to collaborative care. This is crucial, especially considering the high risk observed in those with major depressive disorder. Unfortunately, current screening rates are alarmingly low, highlighting a missed opportunity to identify and help those at risk. 

Furthermore, the project emphasizes the need for systemic approaches to suicide care, similar to those seen for chronic diseases like cardiovascular issues and diabetes, especially in integrated care settings. Implementing suicide screenings in primary care, especially for those providing integrated behavioral health care, can help providers better understand their at-risk populations and lead to more effective suicide prevention practices.


Your role in a compassionate tomorrow

If you or someone you know is navigating these challenges, remember, you're not alone. We all play a part in shaping a world where mental health is understood and supported. 

At Concert Health, we're dedicated to transforming behavioral health through evidence-based care, ensuring every individual receives the understanding and support they deserve. Let's pledge to stay informed, be compassionate, and take collective steps toward a safer, more empathetic future. 

Reach out, connect, and make a difference today with Concert Health by your side.





If you or someone you know needs help

The discussion of suicide is sensitive and potentially triggering. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or tendencies, immediate help is available:

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

Available 24/7, this lifeline provides free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources.

Remember, it's crucial to reach out for support or encourage loved ones to do so if they're in crisis.


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