NIMH funds new UW Suicide Care Research Center

Department news | February 28, 2023

We are at a crucial point in the development of care for adolescents and young adults who struggle with thoughts of suicide. When adolescents and young adults disclose thoughts of suicide to their primary care providers, they are often not prepared to help them with treatment in the clinic. Patients and families are usually referred to the emergency department even when an outpatient treatment might be better suited to their immediate needs. This approach overwhelms the medical systems and creates negative experiences for patients and providers.

We are thrilled to announce that our department has been awarded a five-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health for a new practice-based Suicide Care Research Center. Directed by Katherine Ann (Kate) Comtois, PhD, MPH, the Center will work to improve the design and delivery of suicide care in outpatient medical settings. The Center’s ultimate goal is to improve outcomes across the suicide care pathway, from identification of suicide risk through long-term surveillance and follow-up.

The Center’s Signature Project will be the development of an innovative brief outpatient crisis intervention through Seattle Children’s Hospital where adolescents can be referred as an alternative to the emergency department. Over the five-year time frame, the team will also conduct three human centered design exploratory studies and eight pilot studies co-designing interventions with health care providers, patients, and families to make coordinated improvements across the suicide care pathway.

The team brings a wide array of expertise ranging from clinician-researchers who are on the frontline treating suicidal patients in outpatient medical clinics to informatics researchers and operational experts designing the innovative and cutting-edge technology that allow clinicians to efficiently do their jobs each day. This diverse skillset is due to a rare partnership between UW’s School of Medicine’s Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Pediatrics, Family Medicine, and Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education. This partnership also bridges many of UW’s resources: The Center for Suicide Prevention and Recovery, the Institute for Translational Health Sciences and its Research Information Technology team, and the AIMS Center.

A number of people worked on this proposal in addition to Dr. Comtois including Molly Adrian, PhD; Patricia Areán, PhD; Ian Bennett, MD, PhD; Trevor Cohen, MBChB, PhD, FACMI; Doyanne Darnell, PhD; Kevin Hallgren, PhD; Andrea Hartzler, PhD; Alison Laing; Cari McCarty, PhD; Elizabeth McCauley, PhD;  Laura Richardson, MD, MPH; and Julie Richards, PhD, MPH, to name a few. Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard on this significant, timely and collaborative proposal!