• Impact of Undertreatment of Depression on Suicide and Suicide Attempt among Children and Adolescents: A Simulation Study with Microsimulation and Agent-Based Models

      Zhang, Chengchen; dosReis, Susan; 0000-0003-3349-8725 (2022)
      Background: Depression is a strong risk factor for suicide, but undertreatment of depression is common among children and adolescents. The impact of undertreatment of depression on suicidal behaviors in this population is largely unknown due to the limitations of conventional data sources and methods. This dissertation research aims to overcome these challenges by using simulation models to answer two questions: 1) Is undertreatment of depression associated with increased risk of suicidal behaviors? 2) Do interventions that reduce undertreatment of depression lower the risk of suicidal behaviors? Methods: A microsimulation model simulated the 1-year suicide rate and suicide attempt risk with 12-, 36-, 52-week antidepressant treatment and no treatment in children and adolescents with depression. Modified Poisson regression estimated the suicide rate ratios and suicide attempt risk ratios for 12-, 36- and 52-week treatment compared with no treatment. An agent-based model simulated the potential impact of the following interventions in preventing suicide and suicide attempt in a synthetic population of children and adolescents: 1) depression screening (i.e. reducing untreated depression); 2) reducing attrition during depression treatment (i.e., increasing the proportion who complete the first 12 weeks of treatment); 3) suicide intervention (i.e., screen and treat individuals who need suicide care) among depressed individuals; 4) universal suicide intervention in medical settings. Results: Compared with no treatment, 12-, 36- and 52-week antidepressant treatment was significantly associated with decreased suicide rate and risk of suicide attempt. Depression screening could reduce the risk of suicide attempt (-0.64% (95% Credible Interval (CI): -1.13%, -0.11%)) only when 80% untreated depression was reduced. Universal suicide intervention showed a significant decrease in the risk of suicide attempt, which increased with the screened proportion (20%: -0.68% (95% CI: -0.87%, -0.55%), 50%: -1.47% (95% CI: -1.61%, -1.77%), 80%: -2.89% (95% CI: -4.57%, -2.31%). The other interventions did not show a significant effect in reducing the risk of suicide attempt in the population. Conclusion: Antidepressant treatment for at least 12 weeks may reduce risk of suicidal behaviors. Universal suicide intervention in medical care settings may be more effective in reducing suicidal behaviors compared with interventions that reduce undertreatment of depression.