Objective: In the present paper we describe a case-control study on the utilization of health care services prior to suicide (across different time periods) among children and adolescents aged 11 to 18 years in the Province of Quebec, Canada and matched healthy controls.
Method: Utilization of services (i.e., contact with general practitioners, mental health professionals, psychiatrists and/or youth protection groups) was examined at different time periods in 55 child and adolescent suicide victims and 54 matched community controls using proxy-based interviews and questionnaires. In addition, we examined the rates of detection of psychopathology by health care professionals, the use of psychotropic medications and the subjects' compliance with treatment.
Results: Although more than 90% of child and adolescent suicide completers in our sample suffered from mental disorders, a significant proportion of them were left without appropriate healthcare support (including psychiatric consultation) in the period preceding their suicide. Also, 20% of suicide completers and no control subject made prior suicide attempts. More specifically, over two-thirds of suicide completers had no treatment contact within the month prior to the completion, while only 12.7% (n=7) of them were in contact with psychiatric services during that same period. Moreover, 56.4% (n=31) of the suicide completers had not been diagnosed as having a mental disorder at the time of their death, and 54.5% of the subjects' that received treatment (12 out of 22) were considered poorly compliant or not compliant at all according to their medical/psychosocial records. Finally, we also found that females seemed to have more psychiatric and mental health service contacts in the past month, that subjects with depressive and anxious disorders received more psychiatric and general mental health services in the past year, and that past month hospitalization was more often associated with alcohol abuse and psychosis.
Limitations: Relatively small sample size, and cross-sectional design.
Conclusions: Our findings indicate the need for an overall increase in the rates of healthcare services delivered to young subjects at risk for suicide, as well as better training of health professionals in detecting and treating youth psychopathology.