Service use in adolescents at risk of depression and self-harm: prospective longitudinal study

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2014 Aug;49(8):1231-40. doi: 10.1007/s00127-014-0843-y. Epub 2014 Feb 26.


Purpose: Although depression and self-harm are common mental health problems in adolescents, there are barriers to accessing help. Using a community-based sample, this study investigates predictors of service contacts for adolescents at high risk of depression and self-harm.

Methods: Three thousand seven hundred and forty-nine (3,749) 12- to 16-year-olds in UK secondary (high) schools provided baseline and 6 months' follow-up data on mood, self-harm and service contacts with a range of primary and secondary healthcare services.

Results: Although most adolescents at high risk of depression or self-harm had seen their general practitioner (GP) in the previous 6 months, less than one-third had used primary or secondary healthcare services for emotional problems. 5 % of adolescents who reported self-harm had seen specialist child and adolescent mental health services in the previous 6 months. In longitudinal analyses, after adjustment for confounders, both depression and self-harm predicted the use of any healthcare services [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 1.34 (95 % CI 1.09, 1.64); AOR = 1.38 (95 % CI 1.02, 1.86), respectively] and of specialist mental health services [AOR = 5.48 (95 % CI 2.27, 13.25); AOR = 2.58 (95 % CI 1.11, 6.00), respectively]. Amongst those with probable depression, 79 % had seen their GP and 5 % specialist mental health services in the preceding year.

Conclusions: Most adolescents at high risk of depression or self-harm see their GP over a 6-month period although only a minority of them access specialist mental health services. Their consultations within primary care settings provide a potential opportunity for their identification and for signposting to appropriate specialist services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Schools
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult