Mental Health and Suicide Data and Healthcare Operations and Policies


The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors six types of health-risk behaviors that mainly contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youths. Of the six risk behaviors, this paper will focus on mental health and suicide using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Suicide among youths results in the direct loss of many and adversely disrupts psychosocial and adverse socio-economic aspects. According to Bilsen (2018), suicide is one of the leading causes of death in late childhood and adolescence worldwide. Thus, from the perspective of mental health, youth suicide constitutes a major health problem that needs to be addressed before it deteriorates further.

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Mental Health and Suicide Data

Percentage of Youths Who:200920112013201520172019
Experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness26.128.529.929.931.536.7
Seriously considered attempting suicide13.815.817.017.717.218.8
Made a suicide plan10.912.813.614.613.615.7
Attempted suicide6.
Were injured in a suicide attempt that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse1.

(“Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report 2009-2019”, 2020).

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The data reveals that little progress has been achieved in mental health and suicide-related behaviors experienced and reported by individuals in late childhood and adolescent ages over the past decade. Most indicators of mental health, as shown in the table above, have exhibited increasing trends. The data demonstrate that adolescents experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness from 2009 through 2019. Moreover, one in five adolescents seriously considered suicide. Also, many students made suicide plans from 2009 through 2019. Notably, poor mental health can cause serious adverse outcomes for individuals’ health development in their late childhood and adolescence. According to Bilsen (2018), it can lead to illicit substance use, risky sexual behavior, adolescent pregnancy, school dropout, among other delinquent behaviors.

The Trends that the Mental Health and Suicide Data Document

Many contemporary studies have concurred that suicide is closely linked to mental disorders. According to Thompson and Swartout (2018), about ninety percent of the persons who commit suicide have suffered from at least one mental disorder. Thompson and Swartout further elaborate that mental disorders contribute between 47-74 percent of suicide risk. The affecting disorder is the most frequent in the context of adolescents. In a study focusing on suicide among the youth, criteria for depression were identified in 50-65 percent of suicide cases.

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Additionally, substance use and alcohol misuse are strongly associated with suicide risk.  Moreover, 30-40 percent of the people who commit suicide have had personality disorders such as antisocial personality or borderline disorder. A correlation has also been found between suicide and anxiety disorders (Simbar, Golezar, Alizadeh, & Hajifoghaha, 2018). Thus, in general, there is a significant correlation between mental health and suicide risk whereby young people, especially adolescents, are by nature a more vulnerable group due to the prevalence of mental health problems.

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Changes in Operations to Improve Efficiency According to the Mental Health and Suicide Data

The analysis points out that adolescents’ suicide results from a complex multi-dynamic and unique interplay between various contributing factors. Knowledge of risk factors increases the probability of curbing the suicide problem among the youth. A viable and efficient way to reduce the risk factors is through providing integrated and multi-sector (primary, secondary, and tertiary) prevention initiatives. Key prevention strategies should be population-based, targeting the youth.

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One such strategy is the implementation of school-based programs focusing on the mental health of students. The school-based programs should incorporate a professional psychiatrist mandated to increase awareness on mental resilience. The psychiatrist can also identify students classified as high-risk individuals and subsequently tailor-make a treatment plan that suits their unique needs. Moreover, the programs should emphasize following-up after suicide attempts and have effective strategies for helping students cope with stress and other mental disorders.

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It is also worth noting that further unraveling of the complex suicide process must be accompanied by substantial scientific underpinnings as well as the re-evaluation of ongoing and new prevention strategy plans to increase effectiveness and efficiency in addressing youth suicide. This falls under policy prioritization and commitment. The government should set aside sufficient funds for research and development programs focusing on understanding the suicide process and seeking to formulate preventative strategies and approaches. Therefore, the only way forward to successfully address youth suicide is reducing the risk factors and strengthening protective factors as much as possible by emphasizing mental health improvement.

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