According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2011, suicide accounted for more than 39,500 deaths—approximately one person every 13 minutes. Rates of deaths by suicide and of suicide attempts are significantly elevated in persons with psychotic illnesses. It is essential to identify strategies for reducing suicide risk, to identify data sources and approaches that can be used to assess whether early intervention efforts can reduce suicidal behavior, and to summarize what is known about suicide risk at different stages of development of psychotic disorders.

Altarum Institute is helping SAMHSA create a roadmap for developing new approaches to preventing suicide among persons with psychotic illnesses. These new approaches will prevent suicides and improve the quality of life for individuals with psychotic illnesses. Altarum is providing a systems research perspective to evaluate interconnected systems affecting care for persons with psychotic illnesses, as well as more general suicide prevention efforts, to identify new and improved methods for preventing suicide within the most at-risk populations.

Key Successes:

The combination of Altarum’s approach to evaluating systems and the leadership of a world-renowned suicide prevention expert (Dr. Lanny Berman) provides a new valuable perspective previously unknown in the field. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. The economic cost of suicide and attempted suicides is almost $50 billion annually. Preventing persons with psychotic illnesses (the most likely population to attempt suicide) could produce a significant reduction in the economic impact of suicide.

Upon completion of the initial white paper, Altarum expects that SAMHSA will be interested in exploring specific research opportunities identified in the paper. For example, there could be an opportunity to conduct an in-depth analysis of U.S. Department of Defense health records to identify patterns in care for suicidal individuals. This project will result in new approaches to providing comprehensive suicide prevention services that include guidelines for early intervention and other approaches designed to enhance services to psychotic individuals.

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Jim Lee   Jim Lee

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