At the population level, suicide prevention requires shifting emphasis from addressing acute episodes of crisis to broader efforts that reach the communities where people at risk of suicide live and the places they receive care. These have been called “points of engagement” for reducing suicide risk – they are conceptualized as settings and transitions that offer a means of promoting mental health far upstream of a suicide attempt. What a “point of engagement” looks like will vary over the life course. For adolescents, schools are a clear point of engagement for promoting mental health, for example.

Older adults have among the highest rate of suicide in the US. Factors such as medical comorbidities, functional and cognitive decline, and social isolation are also common in later life. These medical and functional needs often result in a person having to move from their home into a senior-living facility (e.g., independent living, assisted living, nursing home). Whether and how these transitions influence suicide risk is not well understood. However, they may represent important “points of engagement” for promoting mental health. With support from the National Institute on Mental Health (R21-MH108989), this project uses data from the National Violent Death Reporting System to (1) describe the epidemiology of completed suicide in senior living facilities, and (2) examine whether transitioning into a facility (either for oneself or a loved one) is related to completed suicide by applying machine learning tools.

Another project is examining how aero-allergens (e.g., pollen counts) and air pollution are related to seasonality of attempted and completed suicide in Michigan. This project, directed by Rachel Bergmans in partnership with Pine Rest Mental Health Services, is funded by the University of Michigan Depression Center.

Publications related to this project

Suicide risk in nursing homes and assisted living facilities: 2003 – 2011. American Journal of Public Health, 2015; 105(7): 1495-1502.

Suicide risk in long-term care facilities: A systematic review. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2014; 29(12): 1198-1211.