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The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to Honor Trailblazing Researchers

9 May 2022 — 3 min read

By AFSP

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When Uncertainty is Our New Normal: Managing Feelings of Helplessness Over the Course of Continuing Challenges

 Contact: María de los Ángeles Corral, 917-439-2946, [email protected]    

NEW YORK (May 4, 2022) – The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the largest private funder of suicide prevention research, will honor dedicated and pioneering researchers in the field of suicide prevention on Tuesday, May 10 at its Research Award Dinner in New York City. Dr. David Brent, to be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award, is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and researcher in the area of adolescent suicide whose decades of field-leading work have increased suicide prevention efforts for youth, including identifying suicidal risk factors and implementing interventions in clinical practice. Dr. Brian Ahmedani will be honored with the Annual Research Award.  Dr. Ahmedani’s transformational work has included studying systemwide care for suicide prevention that resulted in national changes in suicide risk screening and prevention protocols in many healthcare settings.

“As our country faces an escalating mental health crisis, research is more essential than ever for advancing our understanding and prevention of suicide,” says Dr. Jill Harkavy-Freidman the senior vice president of research at AFSP. “Dr. Brent and Dr. Ahmedani have made considerable contributions to suicide prevention research, and they continue to lead the field. It’s through research like theirs that we are helping to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.” 

Dr. Brent was one of the first researchers to identify suicide risk factors in youth. At the time of his study examining the histories of youth who died by suicide, people did not think kids experienced depression or suicidal thoughts and his work brought this to the forefront. He has devoted his lifetime to identifying risk factors contributing to suicide and using that information to develop and implement treatments and interventions. Currently, AFSP is funding Dr. Brent’s study with Dr. Betsy Kennard to learn whether an inpatient intervention with a phone app can reduce suicide risk among adolescents transitioning from inpatient to outpatient care after suicidal behavior.

Dr. Brent’s research is innovative, contributing to many areas of suicide prevention among youth including identifying the connection between genetics and suicide, studying brain function in youth with risk for suicide and developing digital tools for expanding treatment. He has served on the AFSP Board, Scientific Council and advised on AFSP educational programs for youth. Dr. Brent has over four decades at the University of Pittsburgh, where he holds an Endowed Chair in Suicide Studies and is a Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Epidemiology, and Clinical and Translational Science, Epidemiology.

We know that 45% of people visit their primary care physician prior to dying by suicide making healthcare systems uniquely positioned to reach people at risk for suicide and prevent these deaths. Dr. Ahmedani co-authored a study at the Henry Ford Health System showing that a health center-wide approach to suicide prevention lowered suicide deaths. This study helped inform the development of the Zero Suicide Model which includes universal suicide screenings for suicidal ideation and behavior with all patients, followed by further evaluation and connection to treatment for those who are at risk. Assessment and connection to care takes place across the healthcare system. Currently, he serves as principal investigator for multiple federally funded projects, including an NIMH funded study evaluating implementation of the Zero Suicide Model across health systems.

Dr. Ahmedani  is a senior scientist and director of research for Behavioral Health Services at Henry Ford as well as maintains a faculty appointment at Michigan State University. He is committed to mentorship and service as he currently leads a NIMH-funded T32 postdoctoral fellowship program and serves as primary mentor on an AFSP-funded Young Investigator Award.

Learn more about how research has impacted the field of suicide prevention.

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The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide, including those who have had a loss. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, with an Advocacy office in Washington, DC, AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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