TEEN HEALTH Published September29, 2015 By Milafel Hope Dacanay

Mental Screening Can Help Prevent Teen Suicide

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(Photo : Xavi Gomez | Cover)

Primary health care providers have the power to help reduce the risk of suicides among teens, and it begins by doing a mental health assessment.

Nursing researchers Barbara Gray of Texas Women's University and Sharolyn Dihigo of UTA College of Nursing and Health Innovation worked on a paper that seeks to illustrate the huge role primary health care providers like nurses play in the prevention of teen suicide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States with at least one person dying of it every 13 minutes. When it comes to age groups, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24. Meanwhile, based on the data from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 1 in every 100,000 children between the ages of 10 and 14 die of suicide annually. The rate of suicide death goes significantly higher once the child reaches the age of 15 until 19 years old.

Based on the paper, health care providers do see at least 75% of teens from 13 to 18 years old. However, providers tend to fail to properly diagnose the mental health of their patients. One of the foremost reasons is the attribution of common depressive symptoms including moodiness to signs of growing up or adolescence.

According to NIMH, more than 2 million teens had at least 1 major depression episode in 2012. Depression is considered as one of the leading triggers of suicide risk.

The researchers recommend using certain tools such as PHQ-A (Patient Health Questionnaire for Adolescents) for mental health assessments among teens. Many of these tools are free and can be administered during the regular visits.

The results of the assessments can then be helpful for staging interventions on at-risk teens. For example, the provider may recommend therapy or hospitalization.

The paper is now available in The Nurse Practitioner.

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