Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Breaking the Silence – Learning from the experience of Suicide Attempt Survivors

By Doryn Chervin, Action Alliance Executive Secretary

We live during a time, for better or worse, in which suicide is prominently covered in the media. Whether the story is a high-profile suicide, the ongoing fight to prevent military and veteran suicide, or other tragic stories of grief and loss, there is one voice that has been missing – the voice of the suicide attempt survivor. There is a movement underway to change this.  Suicide attempt survivors are emerging with a collective voice and a plan for re-shaping the delivery of suicide care in health care, strengthening community services, and improving suicide prevention efforts.

This Suicide Prevention Week, September 8 – 14, we embrace and support the suicide attempt survivor movement. For far too long, the perspectives of those with lived experience of suicide have not been integrated into treatment services and suicide prevention efforts. Whether this was due to fear, stigma, shame, or other reasons – the important fact is that this is changing.

For the many thousands of Americans who are now living as attempt survivors, their experience of resiliency and lived experience is an untapped resource that could potentially advance suicide prevention and save the lives of others in suicidal despair.  They understand better than providers or researchers how to find meaning in the midst of great darkness.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) is the nation’s public-private partnership advancing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and championing suicide prevention as a national priority. The Action Alliance’s Suicide Attempt Survivors Task Force, recently released a groundbreaking report, The Way Forward, which makes recommendations to improve our nation’s health systems, emergency services, and suicide prevention efforts based on the experience of attempt survivors. This report, which incorporates the lived experience of recovery and resilience, provides the missing bridge between suicide attempt survivors and treatment services, suicide prevention leaders, and policy makers.

The Way Forward marks the beginning of a new era, in which families, communities, clinicians, and health systems do not fear persons with a known history of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Similar fears and concerns were once directed at persons with histories of mental illness, and alcohol or drug abuse; yet we have increasingly benefited and learned from the inclusion of persons with these lived experiences.

Let’s mark this week, 2014 Suicide Prevention Week, as the moment when families, communities, and organizations commit to fully supporting suicide attempt survivors in their recovery and in our efforts.

As the Executive Secretary of the Action Alliance, I welcome this movement. I welcome the stories of survival, hope, and recovery that suicide attempt survivors contribute to the cause of suicide prevention. The era of silence is over. Just as people once whispered about cancer, we will one day look back in wonder that we ever whispered about this.
If you, or someone you know is in crisis (no matter how small or big), help is available. By calling the 24/7 National Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor who will help you find a reason to keep living.
Doryn Chervin, Dr.P.H., M.Ed.
Executive Secretary, National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention
Vice President and Senior Scientist, Health and Human Development Division, Education Development Center, Inc.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Framework for Successful Messaging

By Dr. Jerry Reed, member of our National Strategy for Suicide Prevention Revision/Update Task Force and Director of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Each September, World Suicide Prevention Day and National Suicide Prevention Week provide special opportunities to bring our message of prevention to millions of people around the world. This year, we have an exciting new resource to help us engage the public in suicide prevention and enlist them in supporting the cause that means so much to so many of us. The new resource is the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Framework for Successful Messaging.

The Framework is a web-based resource developed to support the Action Alliance’s priority to “change the national narratives around suicide and suicide prevention to ones that promote hope, connectedness, social support, treatment, and recovery.” It will help everyone who communicates with the public about suicide – educators, researchers, policy makers, practitioners, and advocates – to create messages based on the best available evidence about safe, effective, and helpful communications. The Framework should be used when developing any message for the public, including educational materials, newsletters, event publicity, and fund-raising appeals.

The Framework outlines four critical issues to consider when messaging to the public about suicide. These issues are:

Strategy. Successful messages are focused and intentional. Understanding the audience and tailoring messages to their context is key to successful messaging. It is important to ask ourselves questions such as:
Why we are messaging?
How does the message fit into our overall mission and connect to other suicide prevention efforts?
Who is the audience for this message?
What channels will best reach this audience?
What do we want the audience to do in response to the message?
How can we frame the message to achieve this result?

Safety. Safety focuses on avoiding potentially harmful message content. We have made great strides in ensuring that we do not unintentionally raise the risk of suicide by, for example, discussing the data on suicide risk in ways that normalize suicide or imply that there is nothing that can be done to prevent suicidal behavior. We have worked hard to spread this message to our colleagues in mental health services and journalism, and must continue to consciously ensure that our own messaging is both safe and helpful.

Positive Narrative. We need to ensure that our messages “accentuate the positive” about suicide prevention and offer solutions rather than focus on the problem of suicide. There are many ways to promote a positive narrative; the best approach will be guided by your strategy. Our messages can help the public envision prevention by including concrete actions that the audience can take to help prevent suicide; sharing stories of coping, resilience, and recovery; describing the successes of prevention programs; helping people access valuable resources; and sharing what we know about effective prevention.

Guidelines. It is important to consult recommendations and best practices that apply to your particular messages. The Guidelines section of the Framework website links to a variety of resources, for example, guidelines for telling personal stories, discussing LGBT suicide, reaching young people, and creating culturally specific messages. Additional guidelines will be added over time.
As we prepare for World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10 and National Suicide Prevention Week September 8-14, let us be intentional about our messaging. By considering Strategy, Safety, Positive Narrative, and Guidelines as we craft our important messages, we can engage the public to take action and join us in our quest to prevent suicide and save lives. I urge everyone who creates suicide prevention messages to visit the Action Alliance Framework for Successful Messaging and take advantage of this unique resource.

This post was cross-posted on the Suicide Prevention Resource Center's Director's Corner.

Monday, June 16, 2014

New Directions for Suicide Prevention among Juvenile Justice-Involved Youth

By Joseph J. Cocozza, Ph.D., Director of the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Associates, Inc. and co-lead of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Youth in Contact with the Juvenile Justice System Task Force

The suicide rate among American youth is alarmingly high, and the rate for justice-involved youth is even more concerning. Specifically, data show that:
  • youth in juvenile justice residential facilities have nearly three times the rate of suicide compared to their peers in the general population; 
  • suicide continues to be the leading cause of death for youth in custody; and
  • up to one-third of justice-involved youth report having experienced suicidal ideation in the past year. 
Despite the gravity of these findings, there exists a significant gap between the seriousness of the problem and the adequacy of response to it. Given this disparity, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention formed the Youth in Contact with the Juvenile Justice System Task Force (Task Force), which I was pleased to have co-led along with Melodee Hanes, the former Acting Administrator for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

As members of our Task Force came together, it became abundantly clear that much needed to be done to address this issue. Many juvenile justice practitioners and providers require a greater awareness of how significant and frequent the problem of suicide is for youth in their care. In an effort to bridge the gap from awareness to action, specific training and prevention protocols need to be implemented. Additionally, we need to learn more through research and evaluation about what works best to prevent suicide among justice-involved youth.

The goal of the Task Force was to focus attention on the unique needs of youth in contact with the juvenile justice system by developing new suicide prevention resources for the field. Objectives were organized around four areas:
  • raising public awareness and education regarding suicide and prevention
  • reviewing and integrating the best available research into the resources
  • providing guidance around suicide prevention programming and training
  • encouraging greater collaboration among the mental health and juvenile justice systems
Task Force members’ review of the available information, identification of the gaps in knowledge and practice, and recommendations for action, represent the best researched and documented body of work on their topics. The Task Force produced the following:
A complete list of the membership, products, and findings of the Task Force can be found in the Executive Summary.

To help disseminate this important information, a variety of activities are occurring. The Action Alliance released the work of the Task Force on its website, and many Task Force members have disseminated the information via their own organizations’ Listserv, website, and/or newsletter. On April 17, I was joined by Dr. Linda Teplin, a Task Force member and an expert on youth suicide from Northwestern University, in presenting Preventing Suicide among Justice-Involved Youth: Newly Developed Tools, Recommendations, and Research, which was the first of a series of free webinars hosted by the Action Alliance and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Additionally, the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice developed a new web resource, Preventing Suicide Among Justice-Involved Youth, for the Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change website, which also includes other information and resources about mental health and juvenile justice.

It is my hope that through this work, in addition to our ongoing collective efforts, youth suicide can be prevented. Our duty to protect children, in particular those who are most vulnerable, is an obligation that must be taken seriously. This mission requires an urgency that cannot be overstated and I am privileged to have a role in seeing it succeed.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New Social Media Guidelines Offer Tips for Talking Effectively About Mental Health and Suicide Online

By Brian Dyak, President & CEO of Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. and co-lead of the Action Alliance Public Awareness and Education Task Force

Social media has become ubiquitous. People communicate online about their lives and get their information about the world from sites like Facebook, Twitter and blogs. When one in four people experience mental health challenges each year, social media is a place where some will turn to talk about their experiences, to seek support from their friends and to find helpful information. Social media offers a venue in which people are more comfortable discussing their own mental health issues, which in turn increases the likelihood that others will seek help when they need it.

With that in mind, the Entertainment Industries Council’s TEAM Up project has just released the first-of-its-kind Social Media Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention. These new guidelines are designed to assist individuals and organizations in safely and effectively talking about mental health and suicide-related issues via social media. With tips for posting and responding on Facebook pages, groups, Twitter feeds, Tumblr pages, websites and blogs and more, the guidelines take into account the unique safety, privacy and stigma-related aspects of these issues.

The recommendations in this document were reviewed by experts in social media and the related health fields. Organizational supporters of the Guidelines include the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, California Mental Health Services Authority, Facebook Inc. and leading journalism organizations the National Association of Broadcasters and Radio Television Digital News Association.

“Whether you want to share your own story, discuss events in the news or help others understand mental illness and encourage them to seek help when they need it, these recommendations will be a helpful resource for everyone, especially in teaching children and teens how to communicate about these issues. Safe, constructive communication via social media, that avoids stigmatizing or derogatory language and does no harm, changes the conversation and decreases discrimination,” said Brian Dyak, Entertainment Industries Council, President and CEO and Co-Chair National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Public Awareness & Education Task Force, when the Guidelines were released.

“Social media makes it easier than ever to connect and share with the people you care about,” said Joe Sullivan, Chief Security Officer, Facebook and Co-Chair of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Public Awareness & Education Task Force. “Knowing effective ways to seek input and offer support to your friends and families about difficult topics is an important part of building a safe online community."

“The guidelines have been reviewed by experts in social media and the related health fields. When communicating online avoiding descriptions and images of suicide acts or methods can help reduce the risk of suicide contagion. Anyone can use this new tool to help someone who may be in crisis and potentially help save a life,” Executive Director, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education Dr. Dan Reidenberg commented.

Social media can be instrumental in bringing about social change – by spreading ideas from person to person, by bringing people together for a common purpose, by sharing and reinforcing social norms and by making it easy for people to take action. Social media is not about the technology, but rather it’s about people talking to people, often on a massive scale. By using these powerful tools in a strategic way, and encouraging others to do so as well, we can harness their power to change how people think about mental health and suicide prevention.

Visit TEAM Up for more information.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Vision for Research

By Phillip Satow, Private Sector Co-lead, Research Prioritization Task Force, National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention; Representative, National Council for Suicide Prevention; Chair of the Board, The Jed Foundation

At the end of 1998 I lost my son Jed to suicide. Since then, like so many survivors, caregivers, and advocates, I have worked hard to understand this unendurable tragedy. Sixteen years later, I am happy to be part of the creation of A Prioritized Research Agenda for Suicide Prevention: An Action Plan to Save Lives. This blueprint, if implemented, has a high probability of making a significant impact on our knowledge of suicidal behavior and, most importantly, on the suicide rate itself. The Agenda is a product of the Research Prioritization Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, a public-private partnership whose mission is to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. I have the honor of being the private sector co-chair of this task force. The public sector co-chair is Dr. Tom Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

Our task force had a vision — a vision of creating a paradigm based on the careful prioritization of suicide research efforts. How else could we allocate our limited resources as effectively as possible to prevent the maximum number of people from taking their own lives?

Our activities in the mental health 501(c)3 world tend to fall into silos. That is, our organizations generally focus their programming and funding within particular DSM categories or illnesses. We know, however, that there are often associated symptoms, co-morbidities, and other complications that caregivers cannot ignore during treatment. For example, substance abuse is associated with many mental illnesses, while symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders may be associated with each of a full spectrum of disorders.

In addition, there is a connection between suicide and emotional illnesses that is stronger than most people realize. Suicide mortality in populations with a mental disorder is about three times that of the general population. Depressed patients have a 20-fold greater lifetime risk for suicide than the general population. Bipolar illness, panic disorder, and schizophrenia are also associated with suicide risk. These associations speak to the interdisciplinary nature of our mission. We all need to understand the brain better than we do if we hope to progress, not only in suicide prevention but in finding better treatments for all illnesses of the brain. Clearly, improving our prospects for suicide research and discovering better approaches to prevent self-harm will benefit all of our respective missions and our common goal of preventing suicide.

Unfortunately the suicide rate has not decreased appreciably in the last 50 years. It’s hard to believe that nearly 700,000 individuals annually report having received medical attention for a suicide attempt each year. Nearly 40,000 people die by their own hand annually. The number of suicide deaths over the years 2000-2009 increased by nearly 26 percent. During the same period, mortality from HIV, asthma, heart disease, and many cancers has declined.

Each year, we spend 40-50 million dollars on suicide research in the United States. The vast majority of these funds come from the National Institute of Mental Health. However, other organizations, like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, also fund research. If we added Veterans Administration and Department of Defense expenditures, the total would be somewhat higher.

Doesn’t it make sense that these funds should be directed to the projects most likely to advance our knowledge base and reduce the suicide rate? I am confident that we all agree that there is no lack of ideas emanating from our research community. But how can we feel confident that funds are directed toward establishing research pathways that would truly reduce the burden of suicide in an optimal manner? The question always remains: if funding was increased, if new funding was developed, how should it be allocated?

There has never been a reluctance to recognize the need for a research agenda. However, because of a combination of the lack of sufficient funding, the lack of an appropriate implementation vehicle, and the inability to galvanize the many disciplines required for the effort, we have not been able to systematically address that need until now. The 2002 Institute of Medicine report Reducing Suicide: A National Imperative recognized the importance of interdisciplinary research on suicide. Both the original National Strategy for Suicide Prevention promulgated by Surgeon General Satcher and its 2012 update explicitly call for a research agenda. The long elusive goal of completing a targeting agenda has now been accomplished.

At the urging of Tom Insel, the Task Force established a specific numerical goal for reducing suicide burden. We set a goal of developing an agenda for research that, if fully implemented, has the potential to reduce morbidity and mortality by at least 20 percent in five years and 40 percent in ten years. This goal is aggressive and far-reaching — but doable! The achievement of our task force’s goal in five years could lower the suicide rate to less than 10/100,000 and less than 8/100,000 in ten years.

We also agreed that we needed a broad sampling of stakeholders in our field — survivors, caregivers and researchers — to inform us of their personal aspirational goals for future suicide prevention research. More than 700 people who have been touched by suicide answered our questionnaire. The many hundreds of aspirational goals offered by stakeholders were reduced to 12 that were deemed to be of highest priority.

A literature search was conducted, followed by a portfolio analysis which documented the state of ongoing research studies. Opinion-leading scientific minds weighed in to help design or identify research pathways to achieve the prioritized aspirational goals which represented the "wishes," if you will, of the suicide community.

With research pathways identified, the task force and our advisors and experts established short- and long-term research objectives. The recommended pathways and objectives are central to the final task force product and to the achievement of our underlying goal.

So, why do we think it can be achieved? We conducted a systematic review of available suicide death and attempt surveillance, data which helped to uncover promising areas of future research. We developed several models of interventions to estimate the potential benefit for individuals at risk within boundaried communities (enclosed entities like our criminal justice system, college campuses, integrated health care complexes, and HMOs). There are more than two million suicide attempts in boundaried communities. Developing effective interventions for these environments has the potential to bring about major reductions in attempt rates.

Critical to achieving our goals is funder cooperation and transparency. And we must not forget the amount of hard work that mental and health supporters put into advocating for an increase in federal funding for suicide research.

The implementation plan for the task force's final report is critical. We expect all the key funders of suicide research to familiarize themselves with its content. We hope that future funding will be directed at the objectives that are clearly outlined in the agenda. The task force expects that the details of its work will be broadly disseminated and will appear in widely read scientific journals. We hope that researchers will focus their efforts on priorities consistent with those suggested in the plan. We also hope that future funding will be allocated to studies that incorporate thematic elements highlighted across multiple pathways, for example, the increased use of common data elements, banking and sharing to leverage research investments, fielding practical research designs, and finding service quality improvements to reduce suicide.

Lastly, I expect that stakeholders, whose aspirational goals are targets for achievement, will now have a potential rallying point and that they will find the task force’s research priorities understandable and see them connected to their own aspirations and to potential reductions in suicide burden. They may also appreciate the broad definition of research that the document considers, including services research, outcomes research, and prevention research — research that for many may have a more direct and practical association to suicide prevention programing.

Most importantly, we can’t let the agenda sit on a shelf. The potential to save thousands of lives, including those of so many military personnel and veterans, deserves support. I hope each of you can help foster a groundswell of awareness and support for this unique opportunity to help move the suicide prevention field forward.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

“Lighting the Way Forward”: The National Summit on Lived Experience in Suicide Prevention

By Eduardo Vega and John Draper, Suicide Attempt Survivors Task Force co-leads, and David Covington, Zero Suicide Advisory Group co-lead, National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention

On March 5-6, a landmark meeting occurred between two groups of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance). Members of the Suicide Attempt Survivors Task Force (SAS TF) met with leaders of the Zero Suicide Advisory Group (ZSAG) to discuss, in detail, how the values, insight, and expertise of people with lived experience of suicide can create better supports and services to reduce suicide for those in clinical care. Held in San Francisco through the support of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline), the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Summit on Lived Experience in Suicide Prevention may be the first time in history that a major national care initiative such as Zero Suicide has engaged with people ‘who have been there’ to strategize directions for fostering healthier communities and preventing suicide death.

The Summit involved leadership from the Action Alliance’s Executive Committee and Suicide Attempt Survivors Task Force, including John Draper and Eduardo Vega, and the Zero Suicide Advisory Group, including David Covington, CEO & President of Crisis Access, LLC, and Becky Stoll, Vice President for Crisis and Disaster Management, Centerstone of America. Members of the SAS TF from around the nation participated actively throughout the Summit. Reflecting the Summit’s significance and importance, Richard McKeon, SAMHSA’s Suicide Prevention Branch Chief, Jerry Reed, Director of SPRC, and Sally Spencer-Thomas, AAS board member and director of the innovative Carson J. Spencer Foundation, were also active participants.

The meeting of these two groups was one of intense dialogue and progress, and a true spirit of mutual interest was fostered through discussion of each other’s work.  As Vega, co-lead for the SAS TF pointed out, “Today we are a team. We are finding ways to support each other’s efforts and bringing our energies and values into alignment. In doing so, we are radically changing thinking about suicide prevention, setting the stage for innovation that brings the expertise of attempt survivors into focus with that of our healthcare providers.”

A major focus of the meeting was a pivotal technical document “The Way Forward”, soon to be released by the SAS TF, which lays out recommendations for policies, practices, and programs to support people experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings and for the engagement of people with this ‘lived expertise’ in services and systems change. This document, in development for over two years by SAS TF members, builds on the 2012 National Strategy on Suicide Prevention and provides a core values framework that advances the conversation.  Bringing its recommendations into focus with the priorities of Zero Suicide is a bold concrete step for change in the way services and providers think about prevention of suicide. As Covington, co-lead of the ZSAG, remarked, “Wherever Zero Suicide is developed, we need lived expertise to be ‘baked in, not bolted on’ to the project.”

Draper, director of the Lifeline, who brings his leadership to both the SAS TF and ZSAG, outlined the value of the collaboration directly: "'Zero Suicide' is a goal that we can aspire to only if clinicians and persons who have a history of suicidal thoughts or actions collaborate in ways that enable choice, trust, and shared responsibility. This meeting was a perfect model for the kind of collaboration that will build connectedness, hope, and meaning for persons seeking help for suicidal thoughts in clinical systems of care."

In addition to strategic directions for collaboration and support, summit attendees discussed crucial issues related to the field of suicide prevention, including: risk, community intervention practices, stigma and prejudice, and other historical challenges to progress. For example, although mental health service providers have developed extensive dialogue with their service ‘consumers’ over many years, and lived expertise in the area has resulted in many new and transformed programs, the suicide prevention community has historically had very limited dialogue with people with lived experience of suicidality. This history of disengagement was broached openly.

In the words of Leah Harris, communications director for the National Empowerment Center, who is also on both the SAS TF and ZSAG: “After my suicide attempts, I experienced re-traumatizing treatments from systems that were supposed to help me. For years, I also felt the attempt survivor’s voice was not valued in suicide prevention. But that is changing. Today, we built trust, and a lot of healing took place."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A New Research Agenda for Suicide Prevention

By Thomas Insel
More than 38,000 Americans died by suicide in 2010, the most recent year for which we have national data. This makes suicide, once again, the tenth leading cause of death for all ages; the second leading cause of death for young adults ages 25 to 34.1 Despite changes in recent decades that might reasonably have been expected to reduce suicide rates—increased awareness about mental disorders, the availability of treatment, and community-based public health efforts aimed directly at preventing suicide—U.S. rates of suicide deaths have not decreased. In fact, suicide has proven stubbornly difficult to understand, to predict, and to prevent.
This grim reality contrasts with the successes achieved in other areas of medicine and prevention. Death rates from heart disease, cancer, traffic accidents, and homicides are all declining. For heart disease and cancer, research has identified risk factors as well as new pathways to prevention and treatment. Changes in automobile design along with road safety measures have contributed to an ongoing reduction in traffic deaths. Homicides now number less than half the annual total of deaths by suicide in this country.
Why is suicide different? There are a number of public health approaches, from redesigned bridges and buildings to firearm safety, that need the kind of aggressive engineering and policy approaches we have seen with automobile safety. And, learning from heart disease and cancer, we can do better detecting and helping individuals at risk. Despite our best efforts, it remains very difficult to predict who will attempt suicide and, thus, difficult to intervene. The presence of mental illness is a risk factor, but it is not universally present or identified in those who attempt suicide. Treatment can be effective, but too many high-risk individuals are not getting the effective care they need. Suicide remains one of the top five sentinel events (unanticipated events resulting in serious injury or death) for health care systems.2 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.
In a blog post last September, I talked about a newly updated National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and the research agenda being developed by a task force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention . This week, the Research Prioritization Task Force (RPTF) released A Prioritized Research Agenda for Suicide Prevention: An Action Plan to Save Lives.
The stated goal of the Research Agenda is to reduce suicides by 20 percent in five years and 40 percent in the next ten (assuming all recommendations are fully implemented). The Research Agenda bases its recommendations on the impact of currently known interventions and the potential number of suicide attempts and deaths prevented. For instance, it was estimated that in 2010 there were 735 suicides from motor vehicle carbon monoxide inhalation.3 One model illustrated the hypothetical effect of shut-off devices in cars linked to carbon monoxide sensors, a technology that could be inexpensive per vehicle and is currently feasible. The results suggest that installing devices the way we install seat belts could prevent most suicides from carbon monoxide poisoning in automobiles.
What are we doing to jumpstart this agenda? Two new initiatives will focus on priorities of the Research Agenda. First, NIH recently announced  funding opportunities calling for research on violence with particular focus on firearm violence. This call for proposals was developed in response to the Presidential memorandum  in January 2013 directing science agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fund research into the causes of firearm violence and ways to prevent it. The resulting research will help us understand the risk factors for firearm violence and prevention opportunities, directed at self as well as others.
In 2010, suicide was the third leading cause of death for adolescents. It remains a challenge to predict individual risk, and once a young person screens positive for suicide risk, there are few, if any, strategies to guide matching of individuals to the appropriate intervention. As a second initiative, NIMH released a request for applications  to support research that addresses both issues: developing and testing screening approaches for use in emergency departments (EDs) to identify children and adolescents at risk for suicide; and developing methods to help assign youth who screen positive to appropriate interventions. Given the numbers of young people who may be at risk, and the high number of them who visit the ED, developing effective screening and assessment approaches to gauge the level of risk can give providers the tools they need to better use limited resources.
A friend who lost his son to suicide told me that every suicide has at least 11 victims: the person who dies and at least ten others who will never be the same. This is a problem that sooner or later, unfortunately, touches us all. Developing the Research Agenda was a 3-year effort by the RPTF, chaired by Phillip Satow, chair of the board at the Jed Foundation , and myself. The RPTF called on more than 60 national and international research experts and more than 700 individuals representing stakeholders in this research to identify priorities. We believe the Research Agenda gives us a roadmap to save lives.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/leadcaus10_us.html .
2 The Joint Commission. Sentinel Event Alert. Issue 46, November 17, 2010. http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/leadcaus10_us.html .
3 National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention: Research Prioritization Task Force. (2014). A prioritized research agenda for suicide prevention: An action plan to save lives. Rockville, MD: National Institute of Mental Health and the Research Prioritization Task Force. 
This post was originally posted on the NIMH Director's Blog.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

New Action Alliance Executive Secretary Introduction

It is my great honor to become the next Executive Secretary of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. David Litts is a shining example of leadership and commitment who set the stage for our next chapter. I thank him for his wisdom and hard work to bring the Action Alliance to its current place of great possibility.

Here is a little information about my background. My three decades of public health experience are comprised of results-driven program improvements and work with all levels of Government, as well as with nongovernmental and community organizations to help translate research and science into policies and programs. Most recently, in my role of Executive Vice President and Principal Scientist at SciMetrika, I directed the Social and Behavioral Sciences Division and led key corporate initiatives. Before that I served as a senior leader at ICF International (formerly Macro International) which included serving as Vice President of work in the Public Health Research and Evaluation practice and addressing a broad spectrum of public health issues. I’ve directed more than 180 state and national program evaluations, policy assessments and evaluations, training projects, and research studies over my career, including work in heart disease and stroke prevention, school policies in asthma-management, and policies to improve testing and treatment for HIV among adolescents. My experience has helped to shape my commitment and dedication to good health, including the promotion of mental health and suicide prevention.

We begin the next chapter of the Action Alliance with a laser-sharp focus on meeting our goal of saving 20,000 lives in five years. Our opportunities include championing the most effective policies to prevent suicides and catalyzing research and practice communities to develop strong measures, so that we know where we are making a difference. Finally, with strong policies and reliable measures, we can monitor ways in which the Action Alliance and its productive partners change the trajectory of suicide in the United States. I look forward to beginning my work with the Action Alliance and contributing my efforts to help build a nation free from the tragic experience of suicide.

In health,

Doryn Chervin, Dr.P.H.
Executive Secretary
National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention