Objective. This study examined utilization of psychological or emotional counseling by suicidal adolescents to answer questions about the extent to which health services can contribute to the prevention of adolescent suicide.

Method. The study used data from Wave 1 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which involved a household-based interview with a nationally representative sample of 15 483 adolescents from grades 7 to 12. Of these, 2482 adolescents were classified as suicidal, as indicated by an affirmative response to the question “During the past 12 months, did you ever seriously think about committing suicide?” For this group, the study asked the following questions: 1) What proportion receives psychological or emotional counseling? 2) What are the sources of this counseling? 3) What factors are associated with receipt of such counseling?

Results. Less than one third (28%) of suicidal adolescents received psychological or emotional counseling. The most common sources of care were private doctors’ offices (37%) and schools (34%). Factors associated with receipt of counseling in the past 12 months included age, race, degree of suicidality, depression status, and having had a physical examination during the same period.

Conclusions. Only one third of those who report suicidal ideation and behavior receive psychological or emotional counseling. Although not all of these young people may identify a need for counseling, this finding still suggests that many of those at risk of harming themselves do not receive professional help. However, on the positive side, those who do use counseling services tend to do so on the basis of their being in the greatest need, rather than their parents’ capacity to pay for services. Counseling services have an important role to play in suicide prevention, and a variety of sources of care need to be available. Although counseling services are vital, a range of other strategies is necessary to reduce the youth suicide rate.

You do not currently have access to this content.