Unlocking hope: Study reveals link between mental health access and lower suicide rates

Access to mental health resources is strongly correlated with suicide rates.

Increasing access to mental health care may significantly reduce suicide rates according to a study from Incite @ Columbia University [1]. Based on factors such as demand, competition and transportation, the researchers calculated the accessibility of therapists and psychiatrists across the country. 

A strong correlation was found between increased access and decreased suicide rates. Additionally, the study highlights disparities in care access for those most at risk.

Despite historically high suicide rates and a lack of mental health care providers, new Incite @ Columbia University research suggests that interventions can prevent unnecessary suffering and death. Researchers Daniel Tadmon and Peter S Bearman found that in the United States, improving access to mental health care reduces suicide risk [2].

Using new measurement methods, Tadmon and Bearman were able to measure access more precisely than was previously possible. For the first time, they precisely located all psychiatrists and therapists in the United States. 

They calculated residents’ access to care by considering service demand, competition and transportation options for each census tract, roughly equivalent to a neighborhood. Following this, they compared the score to the average suicide rate in each county. 

A lower suicide risk was strongly associated with higher scores, which pointed to shorter travel times to more providers with less saturation. Despite controlling for other key factors related to suicide, such as race, divorce and gun shop prevalence, the effect persisted.

The purpose of this study is to highlight misalignments between healthcare distribution and demand in the United States [3]. This data also reveals a high level of inequality in access to care, according to Tadmon. He adds, “It’s alarming that the same people whose social circumstances put them at greater risk for suicide also have a much harder time finding available psychiatrists and therapists who could help them.”

[1] https://incite.columbia.edu/
[2] https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2301304120
[3] https://scitechdaily.com/mapping-the-path-to-survival-columbia-study-links-mental-health-access-to-lower-suicide-rates/

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