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Study: More Behavioral Health Workers Linked To Suicide Decrease

guns on display in a gun store
Seth Perlman
Associated Press

A new study from The Ohio State University shows firearm suicides decreased slightly in states where the mental health workforce grew.

Researcherscompared national suicide data with behavioral health employment data from 2005-2015. They found an increase in behavioral health providers is associated with a decrease in gun-related suicides, but the difference is small.

Researcher Tom Wickizer, a professor of health services management and policy, hypothesizes that at-risk groups still aren't receiving treatment.

"The group at highest risk for suicide is older white males, and so they’re also the group that is proably least likely to access the mental health treatment system for things like depression and mood disorders and what not," Wickizer says.

Wickizer says access to mental health providers can be part of the solution, but even large investments would not lead to a significant decrease in suicides.

"Specifically, we found if you increase the mental health workforce in the average state by 10% you might decrease firearms by 1.2% so ya know, small effects," he says.

Nationwide, the firearm suicide rate rose by 17% from 2005-2015.

The study appeared in the October 2019 issue of the journal Health Affairs.