While many young patients at risk for suicide present to the emergency department (ED) following suicide attempts or in situations of extreme suicidal crises, other patients at risk for suicide go unrecognized, and therefore untreated, in the ED. Once discharged, 30% of suicidal adolescents return to the ED with another crisis within six months of the sentinel event. Currently, no evidence-based standards exist for appropriate screening and post-screening interventions in order to improve outcomes for patients presenting in EDs who are at elevated risk for suicidal behavior. This two-site R01 application tests the effectiveness of a brief treatment engagement intervention termed Suicidal Teens Accessing Treatment after an ED Visit (STAT-ED) for adolescents seeking treatment in the ED for non-psychiatric concerns but identified via systematic screening as being at risk for suicide. In this unique 3-year proposal, investigators from two institutions (Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center [CCHMC] and Nationwide Children's Hospital [NCH]) will recruit and randomize 160 adolescents (80 per site) to (a) the STAT-ED intervention or (b) enhanced usual care (EUC) as a comparison condition. EUC consists of a brief consultation and a mental health referral. The STAT-ED intervention targets family engagement, problem solving, assistance with referral and limited case management during the transition from the ED to outpatient care with the goal of maximizing the initiation of mental health treatment and aftercare among youth screening positive for previously unrecognized suicide risk. The application builds on a pilot study in which STAT-ED was well- accepted by patients, families, and clinicians and was more effective than EUC. We now propose to test the STAT-ED intervention against EUC in a larger, more diverse sample from two geographically separate, urban pediatric EDs serving broad populations (Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio).
A second aim i s to compare the effectiveness of STAT-ED and EUC in reducing suicidal ideation and depression symptoms after ED discharge. The rationale is that by using the pediatric ED to identify and treat unrecognized suicide risk, adolescents will be less likely to overuse ED services in the future, have a better quality of life and ultimately have a reduced risk of morbidity and mortality. If successful, it will provide a brif and sustainable intervention that can be implemented across diverse pediatric ED settings. This study will contribute to the mission of the CDC by improving our capacity to identify "best practices" for screening, assessing, and implementing practical suicide prevention interventions in the pediatric ED setting.
. By providing a brief treatment engagement intervention to youth identified by ED staff as being at elevated risk for suicide, the study will be the first to test whether outpatient mental health care uptake and treatment attendance can be improved without undue burden on the work flow and resources of the pediatric ED setting.