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Suicide Research & Education

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States and yet our understanding of it beyond general risk and protective factors is limited. We are dedicated to learning more by studying suicide, as individual, interpersonal, developmental, biological, sociocultural, and psychological phenomena.

Looking beyond broader risk and protective factors and deeper into an individual’s unique experiences, our suicide research seeks to better understand the role of in-the-moment interactions or experiences on suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Several Austen Riggs Center clinical staff, including a full-time research psychologist, are actively engaged in ongoing research related to suicide.
One of our core research studies, “Impact of Interpersonal Experiences on Maladaptive Thoughts and Behaviors,” uses state-of-the art technology, including Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA). Using this approach, we are able to study our patients’ reactions to various interpersonal encounters over the course of a day for several weeks. Instead of measuring experience at one or two points in time, this study allows us to understand experience in real time, through repeated measures. The ultimate goal is to illuminate the interpersonal vectors involved in changes in mood, impulsivity, and both adaptive and maladaptive coping responses.
In addition, we have been engaged in ongoing publication of research from our “States of Mind Study Preceding a Near Lethal Suicide Attempt” study, as well as a follow-up assessment with participants from this study to see how they are doing and what has changed (or not) over the past seven years. Understanding the developmental course of suicidal thinking and behavior remains a goal of this study, where we are still learning about what sorts of life experiences may contribute to chronic or episodic suicidal thinking.

Contact the Erikson Institute

For more information on or work related to suicide research and education, please contact the Director of the Erikson Institute Jane G. Tillman, PhD, or Research Psychologist Katie Lewis, PhD