Background: Little is known about the costs and effects of suicide prevention programs at the population level.
Aims of the study: We aimed to determine (i) the costs associated with a suicide death and using prospective values (ii) the costs and effects of transferring, into a Canadian context, the results of the European Nuremberg Alliance against Depression (NAD) trial with the addition of 4 community-based suicide prevention strategies. These included the training of family physicians in the detection and treatment of depression, population campaigns aimed at increasing awareness about depression, the training of community leaders among first responders and follow-up of individuals who attempted suicide.
Methods: This study includes a prospective value implementation study design. Using published data and information from interviews with Canadian decision makers, we assessed the costs of a suicide death in the province of Quebec and the costs of potentially implementing the NAD multi-modal suicide prevention programs, and the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER), from a health care system and societal perspective, associated with the NAD program while considering the friction cost method (FCM) and human capital approach (HCA) (discounted at 3%.) The costs considered included those incurred for the suicide prevention program and direct medical and non-medical costs as well as those related to a police investigation and funeral costs. Indirect costs associated with loss of productivity and short term disability were also considered. Sensitivity analyses were also carried out. Costs presented were in 2010 dollars.
Results: The annual total cost of implementing the suicide prevention programs in Quebec reached CAD23,982,293. The most expensive components of the program included the follow-up of individuals who had attempted suicide and psychotherapy for bereaved individuals. These accounted for 39% and 34% of total costs. The ICER associated with the implementation of the programs reached on average CAD3,979 per life year saved.
Discussion: Suicide prevention programs such as the NAD trial are cost-effective and can result in important potential cost-savings due to averted suicide deaths and reduced life years lost.
Implications for health care provision and use: Implementation of suicide prevention programs at the population level in Canada is cost-effective. Community mental health programs aimed at increasing awareness and the treatment of depression and better follow-up of high risk individuals for suicide are associated with a minimal per capita investment. These programs can result in important potential cost-savings due to averted suicide deaths and decreased disability due to depression.
Implications for further research: Additional research should focus on whether the outcomes of multi-modal suicide programs are specific or synergistic and most effective for which population subgroups. This may help inform how best to invest resources for the highest return.