Research Overview

Community Suicide Prevention Group

Research Overview


Our research studies focus on:

  1. Crisis intervention and suicide prevention strategies
  2. Suicide contagion/clusters
  3. Screening and assessment of suicide risk

Crisis Intervention/Suicide Prevention 

Our work evaluating the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) has vastly changed the landscape of prevention efforts in the United States. As a national “safety net,” the NSPL now plays a vital role in suicide prevention, largely due to our research, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In contrast to the 2001 U.S. National Strategy for Suicide Prevention in which crisis hotlines were not mentioned at all, the 2010 National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention prominently references NSPL and telephone crisis services as an integral part of the national strategy. The NSPL is also prominently referenced in public awareness messaging campaigns and federal community, and advocacy information, including the suicide prevention website of the U.S. Army. Given the essential role of NSPL and its goals, our SAMHSA-funded evaluations of its effectiveness in 1) preventing at-risk individuals from engaging in suicidal behavior, and 2) enhancing the continuity of care for suicidal individuals, continues to be of the utmost clinical and public health relevance.

Suicide Contagion/Clusters

Our identification of an association between newspaper reports about suicide and the initiation of teenage suicide clusters, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, provided empirical support for collaboration between mental health professionals, community officials, and the media to identify and prevent the onset of suicide clusters.

Screening and Assessment of Suicide Risk

Our evaluation of the safety of school-based suicide screening programs is considered a landmark study. We devised innovative strategies for this work, employing a randomized, controlled study within the context of a two-day screening protocol. The findings—that no iatrogenic effects of suicide screening emerged and that such programs were safe— were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and have had a significant influence on the promulgation of suicide-screening programs in schools, both nationally and internationally. Moreover, numerous suicide researchers worldwide have reported that our findings were essential in addressing the concerns of their Institutional Review Boards and obtaining approval of their research applications.