Prioritizing Suicide Research Can Help Lead to Fewer Suicide Attempts and Deaths

Suicide experts recommend research into early behavioral detection, interventions, use of mass media, and other areas, American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports

Ann Arbor, MI, August 18, 2014

In a new supplement to the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, experts address the state of the science on suicide prevention and provide useful recommendations for research to inform effective suicide prevention. Suicide has been a challenging and perplexing public health issue to study as it has many dimensions and underlying factors. Although much is known about the patterns and potential risk factors of suicide, the national suicide rate does not appear to have dropped over the last 50 years.

This groundbreaking supplement — titled Expert Recommendations for U.S. Research Priorities in Suicide Prevention — draws together topic experts across the spectrum of suicide prevention research, who have considered and proposed ways in which research improvements could more effectively reduce suicide. The 24 articles cover a broad range of scientific topics, from basic science regarding the neurobiological underpinnings of suicide to the dissemination and implementation of prevention strategies. They represent a subset of presentations made by suicide prevention experts to inform A Prioritized Research Agenda for Suicide Prevention: An Action Plan to Save Lives (Research Agenda), which was created by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention's Research Prioritization Task Force (RPTF).

"The articles in this special supplement represent the collective thinking of suicide prevention experts from across the United States and several other countries about where research efforts might best be invested to address the vexing public health problem of suicide," say the supplement's guest editors Morton Silverman, MD, Jane E. Pirkis, PhD, Jane L. Pearson, PhD, and Joel T. Sherrill, PhD. "We are confident the articles will have a major influence on the suicide prevention research community."

The content of the supplement directly addresses research that will inform the following goals:

  • Know what leads to, or protects against, suicidal behavior, and learn how to change those factors to prevent suicide
  • Determine the degree of suicide risk among individuals in diverse populations and in diverse settings through feasible and effective screening and assessment approaches
  • Find ways to assess who is at risk for attempting suicide in the immediate future
  • Ensure that people who are thinking about suicide but have not yet attempted receive interventions to prevent suicidal behavior
  • Find new biological treatments and better ways to use existing treatments to prevent suicidal behavior
  • Ensure that people who have attempted suicide can get effective interventions to prevent further attempts
  • Ensure that healthcare providers and others in the community are well trained to find and treat those at risk
  • Ensure that people at risk for suicidal behavior can access affordable care that works no matter where they are
  • Ensure that people getting care for suicidal thoughts and behaviors are followed throughout their treatment so they do not fall through the cracks
  • Increase help-seeking and referrals for at-risk individuals by decreasing stigma
  • Prevent the emergence of suicidal behavior by developing and delivering the most effective prevention programs to build resilience and reduce risk in broad-based populations
  • Reduce access to lethal means that people use to attempt suicide

Proposed strategies include research into early detection of suicidal behavior, particularly among youth and adolescents, intervention, evidence-based follow-up care, and reducing stigma through the use of mass media.

Effective suicide prevention is a team effort, including both public and private partners. Contributors to the supplement stress that progress in the area of suicide prevention research will require interdisciplinary, collaborative science and that translational science and interdisciplinary research collaboration ("team science") will be critical for advancing science and ultimately identifying effective prevention strategies.

The supplement's guest editors conclude, "The papers in this supplement, like the Research Agenda itself, are intended as inspirational resources that highlight the challenges and rewards of engaging in suicide prevention research, and suggest future research directions that have the potential to advance the overall goal of reducing attempts and deaths."

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Notes for editors
Expert Recommendations for U.S. Research Priorities in Suicide Prevention
Guest Editors:

Morton M. Silverman, MD, Suicide Prevention Resource Center, Waltham, MA
Jane E. Pirkis, PhD, University of Melbourne, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Melbourne, Australia
Jane L. Pearson, PhD, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD
Joel T. Sherrill, PhD, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 47/Issue 3,Supplement 2 (September 2014), published by Elsevier.

Publication of this supplement was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and the National Institutes of Health Office of Disease Prevention. This support was provided as part of the National Institute of Mental Health-staffed Research Prioritization Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

The full table of contents, specific article highlights, and full text of the contributions are available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Angela J. Beck at +1 734 764 8775 or ajpmmedia@elsevier.com. Journalists wishing to interview the Guest Editors or authors should contact Eileen Sexton with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention at +1 202 572 5383 or esexton@edc.org

About the American Journal of Preventive Medicine

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine is the official journal of The American College of Preventive Medicine and the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research. It publishes articles in the areas of prevention research, teaching, practice and policy. Original research is published on interventions aimed at the prevention of chronic and acute disease and the promotion of individual and community health. The journal features papers that address the primary and secondary prevention of important clinical, behavioral and public health issues such as injury and violence, infectious disease, women's health, smoking, sedentary behaviors and physical activity, nutrition, diabetes, obesity, and alcohol and drug abuse. Papers also address educational initiatives aimed at improving the ability of health professionals to provide effective clinical prevention and public health services. The journal also publishes official policy statements from the two co-sponsoring organizations, health services research pertinent to prevention and public health, review articles, media reviews, and editorials.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, with an Impact Factor of 4.281, is ranked 10th in Public, Environmental, and Occupational Health titles and 17th in General & Internal Medicine titles according to the 2013 Journal Citation Reports® published by Thomson Reuters, 2014.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Research Intelligence and ClinicalKey— and publishes over 2,500 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and more than 35,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a world-leading provider of information and analytics for professional and business customers across industries. www.elsevier.com

Media contact
Angela J. Beck, PhD, MPH
Managing Editor
+1 734 764 8775
ajpmmedia@elsevier.com