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This month PCORI joins researchers, people with lived experience, health experts, medical professionals, and millions of other stakeholders to mark National Suicide Prevention Month.

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death among all Americans, and the second leading cause of death among people 15 to 24 years old. It is also a public-health crisis that is getting worse—the suicide rate for youth aged 15 to 24 has increased almost 50 percent since 2000.

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PCORI-Funded Researchers Seek Ways to Address Youth Suicide
Suicide Rates by Age Group (per 100,000: 2019)
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS Data Brief No. 398, February 2021)

Stressors like the COVID pandemic add to the crisis. Recent data show that emergency rooms visits for suspected suicide attempts by girls increased 50 percent in early 2021 compared to the same time in 2019.

PCORI is committed to generating evidence to help address this crisis. We have funded more than 150 comparative clinical effectiveness studies on mental and behavioral health, including conditions related to suicide. For example, we have several studies underway examining approaches for treating depression in pregnant women and new mothers. Examining maternal mortality and morbidity is one of our new focus areas under PCORI’s congressional reauthorization.

In July, our Board of Governors committed $58 million for five studies that will assess how interventions can reduce suicide among teens and people in their early 20s. The largest study will look at which suicide prevention services work best for diverse groups of teens, according to age, sex, culture, perceived risk, and other factors. This $21 million research effort will help teens, their families, and their providers decide on the most effective treatment options.

Another new study will look at interventions for youth brought to emergency departments after suicide attempts. This study will consider whether adding a follow-up service after discharge to cognitive behavioral family crisis therapy in the emergency department works better to prevent future suicide attempts.

PCORI-funding investigators will also research ways to adapt suicide prevention strategies to the individual and cultural needs of youth in specific groups. Youths with autism, for example, are five times more likely than their peers to attempt suicide, but experts know little about the strategies for treating individuals with autism. Collaborating with people, families, and clinicians, researchers will help identify the best approaches.

Culturally responsive interventions and treatments will be the focus for a PCORI-funded study on Alaska Native youth, a demographic where suicide is the leading cause of death. This study will examine whether adding a motivational interviewing component to the culturally sensitive Qungasvik (Tools for Life) Prevention model improves outcomes.

Young adults (ages 18-24) who are sex- and gender-diverse are also at elevated risk for suicide compared to other youth. PCORI-funded researchers will work with stakeholders in this group to adapt interventions for this population and assess their effectiveness.

By funding research like this, PCORI is working to add evidence-based information that clinicians, caregivers, and other stakeholders need to treat patients most effectively.

What's Happening at PCORI?

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute sends weekly emails about opportunities to apply for funding, newly funded research studies and engagement projects, results of our funded research, webinars, and other new information posted on our site.

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