Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New Agenda Aims to Guide Future Direction of Suicide Research

Despite efforts at prevention, suicide rates in the U.S. have remained the same for the last half century. About 38,000 Americans die by suicide every year, and 650,000 hospital visits are attributed to suicide attempts. The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Research Prioritization Task Force today issued a prioritized research agenda based on three years of work by the public-private consortium, led by Phillip Satow, chair of the board at the Jed Foundation, and Thomas Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

“To reduce suicide, we need to know how to target our efforts: to be able to reliably identify who is at risk, how to reach them, and how to deter them from acting on suicidal thoughts,” wrote Insel, in a blog post today. The agenda poses the following six key questions that its authors hope will guide research over the next five to 10 years, with the goal of reducing suicides by 20%:

  • Why do people become suicidal?
  • How can we better or more optimally detect/predict risk?
  • What interventions prevent individuals from engaging in suicidal behavior?
  • What services are most effective for treating the suicidal person and preventing suicidal behavior?
  • What other types of interventions (outside of health care settings) reduce suicide risk?
  • What new and existing research infrastructure is needed to reduce suicidal behavior?
The task force hopes to draw attention to measures already known to be effective, to test whether commonly used antisuicide programs are indeed effective, and to identify new research needed in less-studied areas. “We believe the Research Agenda gives us a roadmap to save lives,” said Insel.

To read more about other recent initiatives to prevent suicides, see the Psychiatric News article, "Kennedy Makes Suicide Concerns Focus of National Media Tour." Also see The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Suicide Assessment and Management, Second Edition.

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