Department funds suicide prevention and recovery grants

Department news | April 21, 2022

We are delighted to announce the recipients of the Department’s Suicide Prevention and Recovery Small Grants Program aimed at supporting projects related to preventing suicide, promoting the recovery of suicide survivors and supporting the families and caregivers impacted by suicide. The program is funded by a wonderful philanthropic gift from the Mary. E Nelson Charitable Remainder Trust, Heidi Combs Trustee. Congratulations to our faculty, staff, and trainees who will be taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity to pursue a wide range of approaches to address the important challenge of suicide.

Evaluation of A New Approach to Youth Suicidal Crises: Swift Outpatient Alternatives for Rapid Stabilization (SOARS)
Molly Adrian, PhD, Eileen Twohy PhD, and Elizabeth McCauley, PhD, will evaluate a novel program developed by our team to improve the effective outpatient management of youth with acute suicide risk. This program evaluation examines just-in time intervention to assess suicide risk level, address imminent risk, and begin treatment to address ideographic suicidal drivers over time. The clinic has served over 200 youth and families since 2019. Qualitative and quantitative data from youth, caregivers, and clinicians demonstrate high levels of fidelity, feasibility, appropriateness, and acceptability, however, impact on core health outcomes has not been conducted. This funding will allow for analysis of the treatment program to demonstrate the impact of the intervention on suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Consumer Perspectives of Online & In-Person Suicide Prevention Strategies
Patricia Areán, PhD, and Katherine (Kate) Comtois, PhD, MPH, will explore which interventions people with lived experience of suicide find acceptable (e.g., different types of in-person and telehealth care, web-based, text message, app, etc.), who should be the agent to deliver the intervention, and what concerns would they have in having social media and search data used for risk identification and then intervention. These findings have the potential to impact how suicide prevention strategies are brought to scale in a way that is seen as acceptable and appropriate to patients at risk for suicide

Using routine alcohol screening measures to identify 1-year risk of suicidal ideation, intent,
and planning within a large primary care system in Washington
Yanni Chang, MD, MPH, Kevin Hallgren, PhDJulie Richards, PhD, MPHand Katharine Bradley, MD, MPH, will conduct a study using a large population-based primary care sample in Washington state to understand how heavy alcohol use and alcohol use disorder symptoms contribute to suicidal thoughts. This study will allow examination of how different levels of alcohol use can predict short term risk of suicidality and allow us to better identify and support patients at risk of suicide in the primary care setting.

Suicide Risk Screening in Acute and Intensive Care at a Level 1 Trauma Center
Patients hospitalized for medical, surgical, or traumatic injury reasons at Harborview Medical Center are universally screened for suicide risk. The present research will advance knowledge about the practices occurring at this large healthcare institution serving the public and social safety net population and set the groundwork necessary for conducting future research designed to improve services not only at Harborview but at similar institutions across the U.S. A team led by Doyanne Darnell, PhD, and Imara West (Research Scientist at Data Quest) will capture population-level electronic health record (EHR) data on suicide screening rates and outcomes among medically hospitalized patients for a 1-year period and gain insight into the context of the data captured through focus groups with acute/intensive care nurses.

Developing a Resource Toolkit for Clinician Survivors of Suicide Loss
Amanda Focht, MD, Jeff Sung, MD, and Katherine (Kate) Comtois PhD, MPH, will develop a resource toolkit for clinician survivors of suicide loss. For clinicians, the death of a patient by suicide is a dreaded event and can be more distressing than death and dying encountered in other clinical situations. In response to patient suicide, some clinician survivors experience emotional and psychological distress that may reach clinical levels and negative and sometimes persisting effects on professional practice. Building on existing reference materials, we will develop a toolkit of resources to guide and support faculty, clinical staff and trainee clinician-survivors affiliated with the department hospitals. These resources would address educational, emotional, administrative and spiritual needs of clinician-survivors.

Role of Criminal Defense Attorneys in Suicide Prevention Following Defendant Arrest
Jennifer Piel, MD, JD, Joellyn Sheehy, MD, and colleagues at the Washington Defenders Association and Washington State Bar Association will explore the role that criminal defense attorneys could play in reducing risk of suicide amongst recently arrested criminal defendants. Suicide is the leading cause of death in jails and the period after recent arrest may be a particularly vulnerable time for suicide. For many persons with recent arrest, their attorney is one of only a small number of persons that they encounter in the days following arrest. This proposal aims to better understand the experience of the criminal defense attorney in working with clients who have suicidal thinking or behavior; training they have received in the past; desired training (such as suicide risk identification, trauma-informed care, resources); and challenges in disclosures in light of their professional responsibility to preserve client confidences. 

Understanding the Support Needs of Gender Expansive Youth
Approximately 35% of youth who identified as transgender report having attempted suicide in the past 12 months. Despite this high risk, few preventive interventions have been developed specifically to address the unique needs of this group who experience high rates of marginalization, victimization and social isolation based on their gender identities. Laura Richardson, MD, MPH, and Katherine (Kate) Comtois, PhD, MPH, will use human centered design principles to adapt the Caring Contacts intervention for suicide prevention for transgender and gender expansive (TGE) youth and user test this intervention with suicidal ideation who are identified via a Zero Suicide-based screening program in the Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic.

Impact of the Preventing Addiction-Related Suicide (PARS) Intervention on patients who receive community-based addiction treatment
Persons with substance use disorders are 5-10 times more likely to die by suicide than the general public. Recognizing this, Rick Ries, MD, Katherine (Kate) Comtois, PhD, MPH, and the UW Center for Suicide Prevention and Recovery (CSPAR) staff developed the first and only suicide prevention intervention successfully developed with and tested in community addiction treatment centers. The primary outcomes of the multisite PARS clinical published in JAMA Network Open in April 2022. Led by Dr. Ries, Kevin Hallgren, PhD, Amanda Kerbrat, LICSW, and Yanni Chang, MD, this project will fund a more detailed secondary analyses to better characterize which patients respond best to the PARS intervention, which in turn will help inform intervention improvements.

WA State Parent Network to Prevent Youth Suicide and Improve Student Mental Health
Rates of suicide and mental health challenges among youth have never been higher. An essential part of youth well-being, mental health and suicide prevention is that parents and other caregivers of youth are prepared to support their children in these challenging times. Asking IS Caring is a parent-caregiver network started in Eastern Washington to provide community education, peer to peer support to families struggling with youth suicide behavior/ death, and input to districts implementing mental health programming and supports. Led by Jennifer Stuber, PhD, Kelcey Schmitz, MSEd, and Eric Bruns, PhD, this grant will help put into place essential infrastructure to further develop and to sustain the parent-caregiver network as well as to evaluate programming stemming from the network’s activities. Asking Is Caring is supported by a curriculum designed to offer parents-caregivers an invitation to be present with their child. It offers opportunities for participants to problem solve, and questions they can ask of their child, the parent’s friends, and of themselves. Asking IS Caring provides practical steps to build protection from suicide in the home.