For Immediate Release

May 20, 2008

New York, NY – Suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death for Americans. Although suicidal behaviors in the general population are often linked to mental health disorders, the risk can be potentially greater for individuals facing HIV/AIDS, drug-related problems, and incarceration. These social problems are intimately connected to environmental conditions – such as poverty, homelessness, homophobia, racism – that need to be accounted for in suicide prevention interventions.

Dr. Rogério M. Pinto, assistant professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW), suggests that in order to prevent suicide, researchers will need community input in all phases of research so that culturally-competent interventions can be developed and disseminated at the community level. In a recent presentation given at the Spring Research Institute on Community-Partnered Suicide Prevention Research in Rochester, NY, Dr. Pinto identified factors that influence collaboration and identified domains of community participation in research.  Specifically, effective community collaborations would entail:

  • Relationship-building – Researchers need to develop relationships by visiting community, learning its demographic makeup, and its way of life before research takes place.
  • Long-term commitment – Community groups need to see commitment from researchers to develop collaborations.
  • Diversity – Both researchers and community partners would be from diverse backgrounds and knowledgeable of the community.

“The issue of suicide is a major concern for several populations, including, for example, individuals involved with the criminal justice system.  Suicide among incarcerated individuals is quite high, and has been rising in the past ten years. How specifically mental health professionals can help this population needs to be better documented and understood,” says Dr. Pinto. “In order to be useful, any intervention research for incarcerated individuals, or any population at risk for suicide, will need to involve clients and providers as partners in all phases of research.”

While Dr. Pinto notes that interventions that target the individual are important, suicide prevention also needs to be framed in the social context. Vital to this is the establishment of collaborative relationships between community organizations to conduct research that would help develop culturally competent interventions and disseminate suicide prevention interventions. This collaboration is essential to foster educational and social activities that address problems connected to environmental conditions affecting the health of community members.

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