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Lifespan Approach

teenager helping older adult

CSPS investigators study suicide prevention across the lifespan—children, adolescents, emerging adults, adults in the middle years, and older adults.  

Youth Suicide Prevention

Dr. Arielle Sheftall studies developmental mechanisms that confer risk for suicide in childhood, including emotion regulation (Sheftall et al., 2021), as well as racial disparities in suicidal behavior among youth (Sheftall et al., 2022), and interventions to promote mental health and prevent suicide for Black youth. A current project involves a randomized control trial that investigates the effectiveness of two non-traditional methods of therapy in decreasing depression and anxiety symptomology as well as suicidal behavior (Learn more). Dr. Sheftall described her program of research at the NIH Clinical Center Grand Rounds on November 2, 2022.

Dr. Liz Handley studies the role of childhood maltreatment in increasing risk for suicide among youth at the Mt. Hope Family Center, a national leader in research and clinical care on developmental psychopathology. 

Adults in the Middle Years

CSPS investigators develop and test clinical interventions that target biopsychosocial risk factors for suicide in adulthood, including:

History of suicide ideation and attempt: Dr. Tony Pisani is conducting an RCT of the Attempted Suicide Short Intervention Program (ASSIP), which is a manualized 3-session intervention for recent suicide attempt survivors that produced dramatic reductions in suicide attempts in an initial efficacy trial in Switzerland. Dr. Pisani’s current trial is testing its effectiveness in the US public mental health care system, examine theoretically grounded mechanisms, and explore cost-effectiveness. ASSIP is currently being implemented by New York State in a Zero Suicide initiative funded by SAMHSA, which provides the setting for this trial.

Pain: Dr. Lisham Ashrafioun studies suicide and overdose risk among individuals with chronic pain and/or substance use disorders through psychosocial interventions and employing strategies to increase engagement in evidence-based treatments. Recent projects include addressing perceived social isolation and beliefs acting as barriers to treatment to improve overall functioning in individuals with chronic pain and substance use disorders. Dr. Paul Geha studies chronic pain & mental health outcomes (including suicide risk) using methodologies such as brain imaging and natural language processing.

Sleep: Drs. Wil Pigeon and Todd Bishop study cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia, as well as treatments for nightmares. 

Substance abuse: Dr. Ken Conner studies treatments for individuals with substance abuse disorders who are at risk for suicide, including a recently completed study examining the Attempted Suicide Short Intervention Program (ASSIP) for this population. Drs. Conner and Aldalur also study brief behavioral interventions to promote treatment-seeking in populations at risk for suicide.

Older Adults

Social connection: Dr. Kim Van Orden studies behavioral interventions to promote social connection in later life to prevent suicide, including a brief psychotherapy called Engage Coaching (Van Orden, Conwell, & Arean, 2021). Dr. Caroline Silva is studying an adaptation of Engage Coaching for Spanish speakers at risk for suicide, including measuring outcomes via innovative smartphone technology (Silva et al., 2022). Dr. Van Orden and Dr. Conwell collaborate on studies that test community-based social services as a means to promote social connection in later life, including peer companionship (The Senior Connection study; Conwell et al., 2021) and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteering (The HOPE Project; Van Orden et al., 2022). Dr. Aileen Aldalur studies how to connect individuals with identify as Deaf/Hard of Hearing to mental health services as a means of suicide prevention, including consideration of the role of Deaf Acculturative Stress (Aldalur, Pick, & Schooler, 2021).