Nation’s Largest Suicide Prevention Organization Awards $1 Million Research Grant to Houston Physician

HOUSTON (June 7, 2017) – The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is proud to announce the winners of the annual research grant application process, including Dr. Alan Swann, M.D. at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, who will be receiving one of the largest grants of nearly $1 million this year, for his study on the “Behavioral Mechanisms, Prediction, And Treatment Of Short Term Suicide Risk.” Dr. Swann’s study is one of 27 unique studies the foundation is funding this year for research related to suicide prevention. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, but it does not get nearly the research funding from the National Institutes of Health that other top causes of death receive, like HIV/AIDS, heart disease and prostate cancer. To help prevent this leading cause of death from claiming more lives, AFSP funds top research studies annually.

“Suicide is the result of many contributing factors coming together in a brief moment in time. It is very difficult to identify people at short-term risk and provide effective interventions. Dr. Swann’s study takes a comprehensive approach to the problem of assessment and intervention for the suicidal individual,” said Jill Harkavy-Friedman, AFSP vice president of research.

This critical study focuses on identifying risk, and factors that reduce suicide risk. In the study, individuals who have made a suicide attempt, and those who have not made a suicide attempt, will be compared with regard to a variety of factors that have been shown to contribute to suicide, including mental health, aggression and impulsivity, trauma history and substance use, among others. Assessment tools related to decision making and brain activity will be used with the goal of identifying factors that can improve a clincian’s ability to assess immediate suicide risk. Individuals at most immediate risk in light of their recent medically serious suicide attempt will be provided treatment with lithium, a medicine shown to reduce suicide risk. Lithium will be compared with placebo within each participant. The potential contributors to risk will be reassessed after four weeks of lithium to see if they have changed with treatment. The findings can be used to facilitate efforts in clinical settings, if shown to be effective.

There are two $1 million grants being given this year, one to Dr. Swann, and one to Dr. Charles Conway, M.D., from the Washington University School of Medicine Psychiatry Department in St. Louis, Missouri. Each application was reviewed using a rigorous multi-step process with leading experts in the field. The research grants are funded mainly through individual donors who attend the AFSP Out of the Darkness walks and other public education events. Many of the AFSP grantees go on to receive further funding from the National Institute of Mental Health and other large funding agencies.



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