Suicide is an important public health problem. Although there have been advances in our knowledge of suicide, gaps remain in knowledge about suicide risk factors and prevention. Here, we discuss research pathways that have the potential to rapidly advance knowledge in suicide risk assessment and reduction of suicide deaths over the next decade. We provide a concise overview of the methodologic approaches that have the capacity to rapidly increase knowledge and change practice, which have been successful in past work in psychiatry and other areas of medicine. We suggest three specific pathways to advance knowledge of suicide risk factors and prevention. First, analysis of large-scale epidemiologic surveys and administrative data sets can advance the understanding of suicide. Second, given the low base rate of suicide, there is a need for networks/consortia of investigators in the field of suicide prevention. Such consortia have the capacity to analyze existing epidemiologic data sets, create multi-site cohort studies of high-risk groups to increase knowledge of biological and other risk factors, and create a platform for multi-site clinical trials. Third, partnerships with policymakers and researchers would facilitate careful scientific evaluation of policies and programs aimed at reducing suicide. Suicide intervention policies are often multifaceted, expensive, and rarely evaluated. Using quasi-experimental methods or sophisticated analytic strategies such as propensity score-matching techniques, the impact of large-scale interventions on suicide can be evaluated. Furthermore, such partnerships between policymakers and researchers can lead to the design and support of prospective RCTs (e.g., cluster randomized trials, stepped wedge designs, waiting list designs) in high-risk groups (e.g., people with a history of suicide attempts, multi-axial comorbidity, and offspring of people who have died by suicide). These research pathways could lead to rapid knowledge uptake between communities and have the strong potential to reduce suicide.
Copyright © 2014 American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.