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The National Institute of Mental Health archives materials that are over 4 years old and no longer being updated. The content on this page is provided for historical reference purposes only and may not reflect current knowledge or information.

Discover NIMH: Hope Through Early Prevention and Intervention



>> JOSH GORDON: We urgently need better prevention and intervention strategies to address suicide, which is a growing public health concern. The national suicide rate is rising and one of our highest priorities here in NIMH, is research aimed at reversing that trend.

>>JANE PEARSON: The type of research that NIMH is supporting in suicide prevention right now is focused on finding people at high risk. So people who have attempted suicide, people who have thought about suicide, but may have not yet attempted, and we're focusing in the health care system because we know 80% of people who have died by suicide have already been in the health care system. We're trying to improve the health care system's ability to detect, and treat, and prevent suicide.

>> JOSH GORDON: NIMH funded studies have led to the development of simple screening tools that improve a provider's ability to identify those at risk.

>> LISA HOROWITZ: So we created a suicide risk screening tool called The ASQ. The A-S-Q. And it stands for Suicide-Screening Questions. And this has all kind of materials to help physicians and nurses manage people who screen positive for suicide risk. So we have a brief suicide safety assessment. We have a flyer to give out to parents. We have a script that you could train the nurses to use to administer the screening questions. We believe that if nurses and physicians in the emergency room, the inpatient medical/surgical unit, the outpatient pediatrician setting, could use the ASQ to detect suicide risk that you could save young people's lives.

>>JANE PEARSON: A health care provider should be able to sit down and talk to somebody and do an assessment to understand that person's risk factors and think about what could be treated. What's bringing that person to this point that they're thinking about ending their life? Do they have a mental health problem? Are they experiencing stressful life events? That should be an opportunity to start working on these problems.

>> JOSH GORDON: Screening tools are one approach to identifying people at-risk for suicide. Another approach is to use electronic health records that are collected as part of every health care encounter.

>> MICHAEL SCHOENBAUM: We have shown that when one has linked data connecting information on people's health and health care, on the one hand, with information on who goes on to attempt or die by suicide. When a health system or a health plan has data like that we have shown that one can develop statistical methods like a credit card company identifying fraud, health systems or health plans can identify members of their beneficiary population who are at high risk for suicide to reach out and offer them additional assistance.

>> JOSH GORDON: Knowing who is at risk is just the first step. The goal of our efforts is not only to identify at-risk individuals but to help them to improve their quality of life and to prevent suicide attempts.

>> EVE REIDER: We have interventions that work, but we've learnt that they're not being implemented in real-world communities and so much of the focus of the research right now is to figure out how can we implement it in communities by trained professionals who do the interventions how they're supposed to and to take the interventions that we have and to optimize them so that they work better.

>>JANE PEARSON: I think there's good reason to hope that there are many things we've learned that could actually be implemented today and could actually save some lives. I think we're getting a better picture on the trajectories of what's causing suicide so that we could intervene earlier and prevent people from being in a crisis.

>> JOSH GORDON: Thanks to our research efforts, we can identify those at-risk using evidence-based practices, and we have effective treatments currently being tested in real-world settings. We have the tools to save the lives of thousands of individuals, and we are continuing our research efforts to combat suicide and give all new hope.