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Suicide survey notes new focus areas

September 1, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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Younger age groups are more likely to view seeking treatment for mental health as a sign of strength, according to an analysis of a survey released today by three behavioral health advocacy groups.

“In mental health, the younger generation is more likely to seek help and have a general understanding that mental health is a valid and real aspect of health,” says Christine Moutier, MD, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

She says it’s an encouraging shift and reflects some other trends among the attitudes of those ages 18 to 34, such as growing acceptance and advocacy for LGBTQ populations.

Younger individuals are also more likely to believe that suicide can often or always be prevented, according to survey data analysis.

“The opportunity there is that with social media and other ways information is shared these days, our organizations and average citizens can play a role to raise the level of awareness,” Moutier says. “And younger people will progress to middle age and older, and those attitudes can spread and be augmented by the efforts we do proactively.”

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention also were presenters of the study results.

Call for parity

Experts say there is a clear opportunity to focus on parity as well.

According to the survey, 89 percent of the 2,020 adults polled say they believe that mental health and physical health are equally important for their own overall health status. However, 56 percent say that physical health today is treated as more important than mental health. Only 28 percent say that mental and physical health are treated equally.

It is not surprising to study authors that the overwhelming majority (92 percent) of adults believe that services that address mental health are fundamental to overall well-being and should be part of any basic health plan. However, more than four in 10 believe such care is something that most people can’t afford.

Experts say cost, stigma and trouble navigating the complicated healthcare system are among the top barriers to accessing care.

Barriers are concerning because the prevalence of factors that demonstrate risk for suicide such as depression and anxiety far outweighs the number of individuals seeking treatment today. The data indicate that nearly half of those surveyed believe they have ever had a mental health condition, yet, only 38 percent received treatment.

“Over 40,000 Americans every year commit suicide, with over 20 vets killing themselves every day, which is far more than have died in the last five or 10 years from direct military involvement,” says Mark Pollack, MD, president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “It’s been an area of obvious concern to the military and to vets and the country in general. And it does speak to the importance in recognizing these risk factors consistent with data from this survey and others.”

The online survey was conducted by Harris Poll in August 2015.