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CVS Health study shows continuing suicide crisis in the U.S.

September 20, 2023 |4 minute read time

Woman placing her arm on a person sitting with their hand on their head

Awareness of the crisis is widespread, but most Americans lack strong knowledge of the warning signs

Despite national trends, Aetna, a CVS Health company, members have seen reductions in suicide-related events over the past year, compared to 2019 baselines

WOONSOCKET, R.I., Sept. 20, 2023 — A recent CVS Health® (NYSE: CVS)/Harris Poll survey of Americans 18 years and older found that nearly one in five (18%) U.S. adults say they were plagued with suicidal thoughts in the past year.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • More than a third of younger adults aged 18-34 (36%) say they had moments in the past year where they contemplated suicide.
  • An overwhelming nine in ten (89%) U.S. adults deem suicide prevention efforts a major priority in our society.
  • However, less than a third (32%) strongly agree they can recognize the warning signs of someone potentially at risk, and only four in ten (43%) are strongly aware of resources that offer support and information on suicide prevention.
  • Nearly eight in ten (77%) U.S. adults believe health care providers have a crucial role in suicide prevention, and there is an opportunity for providers to have more discussions about suicide with patients.

 

“Our nation continues to face a mental health and suicide crisis, especially among youth and older adults,” said Cara McNulty, President of Behavioral Health and Mental Well-being at CVS Health. “However, with timely, evidence-based interventions, and public awareness efforts, we know suicide is preventable. We’ve developed an approach based on early detection, data-backed support methods, programs for those that have lost someone to suicide and community education to help those in need and empower their support systems. Every life saved is worth the effort.”

Growing reduction in Aetna members’ suicide attempts

As part of its ongoing commitment to mental health and well-being, CVS Health continues to focus on reducing suicide attempts among Aetna members.

  • Despite the increasing national trends, Aetna has seen a 16% reduction in suicide attempts among Aetna adult Commercial members when compared with a 2019 baseline.
  • Aetna member youth (13–17-year-olds) attempts remain above the 2019 baseline. However, since Aetna launched dedicated youth programming in 2021, attempts are trending downward with a 13% reduction when comparing 2022 with 2021.
  • Aetna has seen a 13.7% reduction in suicide attempts among its Medicare Advantage members compared to 2019.

 

“Every suicide that is prevented is a life that is saved,” said Taft Parsons III, M.D., Vice President and Chief Psychiatric Officer at CVS Health. “We are working closely with our partners to implement targeted interventions for youth and develop similar programming for older adults. Together we can help raise awareness of the ongoing crisis and connect those in need to evidence-based resources that can help saves lives.”

CVS Health resources to prevent suicide

CVS Health has implemented several programs and partnerships to help address the suicide crisis focused on both individuals and health care providers.

Partnerships and programs to support Aetna members in need

  • CVS Health launched a proactive outreach program for high-risk youth members. Clinical staff connect with those families to connect them with specialized services and resources.
  • Aetna members have access to specialized outpatient programs, such as a suicide prevention program that combines digital solutions with telehealth sessions and specially trained, licensed clinicians.
  • Through the Caring Contacts program, at-risk Aetna members receive simple messages of hope after being discharged from an intensive level of care related to suicide. More than 20,000 caring contacts or care bags are delivered annually.
  • CVS Health continues to scale universal screenings and safety planning for all Aetna members, whether or not there is a clear suicide risk, to better take action if and when needed.

 

Partnerships and programs to support health care providers

  • Aetna launched a free suicide prevention training, support and continuing education qualification program for contracted behavioral health and EAP providers. All therapists who provide counseling and other mental health services in MinuteClinics® in select CVS Pharmacy locations are certified in this program.
  • Aetna works with SafeSide, an organization dedicated to mental health education, to train primary care physicians, medical practices and their staff in identification and early intervention for patients at risk of suicide.
  • Aetna facilitates a program in which pediatricians are able to participate in the ECHO suicide prevention training opportunity from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and American Academy of Pediatrics.

 

CVS Health also offers a number of mental health guides, podcasts and trainings centered around different populations – from the LGBTQ+ community to young adults to parents and caregivers to teachers – and their unique mental health needs.

Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of CVS Health from August 3-7, 2023, among 2,016 U.S. adults age 18+ who agreed to answer questions about sensitive and personal information related to mental health, including topics surrounding suicide. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within ±2.7 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete research methods, including weighting variables, please contact Doug Feingold.

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About CVS Health

CVS Health® is the leading health solutions company, delivering care like no one else can. We reach more people and improve the health of communities across America through our local presence, digital channels and over 300,000 dedicated colleagues – including more than 40,000 physicians, pharmacists, nurses and nurse practitioners. Wherever and whenever people need us, we help them with their health – whether that’s managing chronic diseases, staying compliant with their medications or accessing affordable health and wellness services in the most convenient ways. We help people navigate the health care system – and their personal health care – by improving access, lowering costs and being a trusted partner for every meaningful moment of health. And we do it all with heart, each and every day. Follow @CVSHealth on social media.

About Aetna

Aetna, a CVS Health business, serves an estimated 34 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental and behavioral health plans, and medical management capabilities, Medicaid health care management services, workers' compensation administrative services and health information technology products and services. Aetna's customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, health care providers, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, visit www.aetna.com and explore how Aetna is helping to build a healthier world.

Media Contacts

Ethan Slavin
Ethan.Slavin@CVSHealth.com

Doug Feingold
Douglas.Feingold@CVSHealth.com

 

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