Project Summary

Emergency department (ED) visits for suicide-related concerns have been increasing in youth over the past decade, a trend potentially exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, youth suicidal thoughts and attempts have increased with the 2019 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) finding that 18.8 percent of high school students have seriously considered suicide and 8.9 percent had attempted suicide in the past year. Furthermore, suicide rates are increasing more rapidly in Latino/Latina, Black, and multiracial youth, especially Black youth as compared to White youth. Similar increases in suicide risk are seen in LGBTQ+ youth. This project focuses on suicidal youth ages 12-19 in three ethnically and racially diverse urban areas: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland; and upper Manhattan/lower Bronx in New York City.

There is limited evidence about which interventions are most helpful for suicidal youth in acute care settings such as EDs. Interventions like safety planning (Safety Planning Intervention with follow-up contacts) are delivered primarily in ED settings while others like Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Adolescents Ultra Short Crisis Intervention (IPT-A SCI) are provided primarily in outpatient settings. Furthermore, safety planning focuses on deescalating suicidal crises when they are beginning to occur while IPT-A SCI focuses on developing skills to prevent crises from occurring. While both approaches have an evidence base, it is not yet known which one is more effective and acceptable in a diverse youth population. Determining which intervention is more effective has implications for dissemination and resource allocation to EDs or outpatient settings.

The research team includes a group of ethnically and racially diverse partners and advisors, advocates, researchers, ED physicians, nurses, and social workers, some of whom have lived experience of their own suicide attempts and suicide loss. This team has provided feedback about crucial elements of this proposal, e.g., recruitment, intervention approaches, and follow-up approaches and will continue active involvement in all stages of this project.

The study will compare the effectiveness of two relatively brief and scalable evidence-based interventions: the SPI+, a suicide-specific intervention that helps people prevent suicidal crises from escalating, and IPT-A SCI, a psychotherapeutic crisis intervention treatment for suicidal adolescents that teaches youth skills to prevent suicidal crises and addresses interpersonal problems that lead to suicidal crises. The results will inform the future standard of care for youth at risk for suicide presenting in the ED setting.

Project Information

Holly Wilcox, PhD, MA
Barbara Stanley, PhD
Johns Hopkins University

Key Dates

60 months
July 2022


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Last updated: March 28, 2024