Research: From Lab, to Practice, to Public Knowledge
It is through scientific research that we have learned the complexity of what may lead an individual to take their own life. Founded as a research-based organization, AFSP has long been the largest private funder of suicide prevention research, enabling us to pave the way forward in discovering what leads to suicide, and consequently, how we can save lives in the future.
At the time of AFSP’s founding in 1987, much we now take for granted wasn’t known about suicide. We now know — thanks to research — that suicide is related to brain functions that affect decision-making and behavioral control, making it difficult for people to find positive solutions. We also know that limiting a person’s access to lethal means dramatically decreases suicide rates in communities…that treatments such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy-SP and Dialectical Behavior Therapy have been proven to help people manage their suicidal ideation and behavior…and that 85-90% of people who survive a suicide attempt go on to engage in life.
Much of what is known about suicide comes from AFSP-funded studies. With the help of our donors, as well as our national Scientific Council, Scientific Advisors, and Research Grants Committee, AFSP helps to shape suicide prevention strategies around the world by funding, supporting, and influencing the most innovative, impactful, and forward-thinking researchers and studies.
Suicide research can only have an impact if people learn about what has been found and incorporate it into their lives. This year we shared research findings with the public through efforts such as informational social media carousels, our growing library of research videos, the new Research Roundup monthly update which features recent findings from AFSP-funded studies, and informative and engaging TikTok videos that spread the word about scientific learnings to new and engaged audiences.
Chris Munden, AFSP’s manager of research and dissemination, shared in a viral TikTok video that even when you return to your full life after a suicide loss, you are still processing the grief, and will not forget your loved one — a message of hope that reached 6.2 million viewers on World Mental Health Day
This year, our newest grants added to our state-of-the-art research portfolio, examining topics such as:
- The development of therapies and medical treatments for treating individuals with suicidal ideation and behavior, such as:
- SAFETY-Parent, an online program that gives parents strategies to best support a child receiving treatment for suicidal ideation or behavior
- Psilocybin-assisted therapy, for people with PTSD and suicidal thoughts and behaviors
- Low Amplitude Pulse Seizure Therapy, a less-invasive alternative to Electroconvulsive Therapy for reducing suicidal ideation and behavior
- Identifying culturally relevant risk and protective factors for suicide among LGBTQ youth
- Producing assessments and interventions for people in underrepresented populations such as members of Latinx, Black and LGBTQ populations, including:
- A treatment model that serves Hispanic and Latinx youth who experience suicidal thoughts and behavior, and includes their caregivers
- Identifying environmental and lifestyle factors that contribute to Black youth suicide attempt risk
- Evaluating the relationship between genetics and suicide
- Examining how to best assess suicide risk without relying on the report of suicidal thoughts
- Developing treatments for survivors of suicide loss who experience prolonged grief
- Studying factors associated with suicide ideation and behavior in youth with both physical and mental health conditions
- Examining the impact of environmental factors such as heat and pollen levels on suicide
- Exploring the use of digital tools in suicide prevention
- Developing community-based programs for suicide prevention
- Evaluating a suicide prevention training program for aged care workers
Read in-depth information about this year's grants here.