Researchers examined the healthcare records of 5,894 patients in eight states who committed suicide between 2000 and 2010. Lead author Brian Ahmedani, from the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, said the study shows the importance of including the entirety of the healthcare system in suicide prevention.
"These findings indicate that mental health and suicide risk may need to be assessed more thoroughly, especially in general medical settings," Ahmedani wrote. "By detecting mental health problems more effectively, we may be able to begin treatment earlier and prevent many suicides."
The study was recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Ahmedani and his colleagues found that 83 percent of people people who committed suicide received health care treatment in the year before their death. But a mental health problem was accurately identified in only 45 percent of those cases.
Their research also identified a number of other behavioral patterns of suicidal patients. For example, analysis showed suicidal patients showed a propensity to reach out to a larger number of psychiatry specialists in the last quarter of the year leading up to their suicide. In other words, shopping around for psychiatric help could be a strong indicator that a patient is losing the mental health battle.
Further research, the study suggested, could isolate other healthcare behaviors that predict an increased chance of suicide.
The study's authors said they hope their findings can advance suicide prevention efforts in accordance with the 2012 national strategy report by the United States Surgeon General and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
[Journal of General Internal Medicine]