Impact of Mental Health Treatment on Suicide Attempts


This paper analyzes the impact of mental health treatment on suicide attempts. While prior work demonstrates the effectiveness of mental health treatment at reducing suicide risk, few studies examine nationally representative populations or use broad measures of access to mental health services. A methodological problem can arise in studies of mental health treatment and suicidal behavior because a suicide attempt can result in the use of more mental health services. Using nationally representative survey data combined with national estimates of provider availability, this paper employs a methodological correction to address that potential problem of reverse causation. This paper uses measures of the density of health care providers in an area as statistical instruments for use of mental health treatment in an analysis of the impact of mental health treatment on suicide attempts. This study finds that mental health treatment significantly reduces suicide attempts.

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Correspondence to Chandler McClellan PhD.

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The results in this paper are based on restricted access data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the Mortality Data File. Interested readers can contact the authors for information on how to obtain access. No official endorsement by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality or the US Department of Health and Human Services is intended or should be inferred. This paper has not been subject to the Congressional Budget Office’s regular review and editing process. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Congressional Budget Office. No author reports any conflict of interest or financial support.

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McClellan, C., Ali, M.M. & Mutter, R. Impact of Mental Health Treatment on Suicide Attempts. J Behav Health Serv Res 48, 4–14 (2021).

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  • Suicide
  • Mental health treatment
  • Access to care