As mental health experts across the country grapple with a record number of deaths due to suicide, a new report from the American Psychological Association suggests the best mental health specialists for treating those who are suicidal may be those with no formal training in psychiatry.
The report, published Tuesday by the American Psychiatric Association’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention, found that the top mental health clinicians in each state had a combined total of 1,037 years of training in the field.
“It is not clear that this represents a sufficient pool of trained professionals,” the task force said.
The task force also said that mental health practitioners with more than 10 years of experience were more likely to be qualified to provide treatment, compared with those with less than five years of medical training.
“A mental health professional with at least 10 years’ experience in psychiatry has a much higher probability of being qualified to treat someone who is suicidal, than a person with no medical training or experience,” the report said.
Mental health professionals were more than twice as likely as other professionals to report they would treat someone “in crisis,” with more reporting having more than 50 days of experience.
“Our report indicates that there is an urgent need for mental health care professionals who can identify a person in crisis in a timely and effective way, to prevent them from ending their life,” the Task Force wrote.
The mental health profession has been on the frontlines of the crisis that is now gripping the country, with the death toll at more than 27,000 since the beginning of the year.
As of Tuesday, there have been at least 3,038 deaths linked to suicide in the U.S. and 1,788 people who have died from suicide since the end of May, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
The latest data show that at least 8,000 people have been treated for suicidal thoughts in the last week, and there are about 17,000 confirmed cases of suicide in hospitals in the country.
The death toll from suicides has jumped to 4,913 since January 1, when President Donald Trump was inaugurated.
In addition to the numbers of people who are suffering from suicidal thoughts, there are also the number of people seeking treatment and the number who have completed treatment.