Interpersonal Vulnerability to Suicide

The popular perception is that suicide occurs most frequently among young adults and adolescents. However, research has actually shown that the rate of suicide among older Caucasian men in the United States is higher than any other age group. Why is it so high? The most concerning reason is that older adult men (especially Caucasian men) are more likely to die on their first or second suicide attempt as a result of utilizing more lethal means. Our research group has been conducting studies to examine the role of relationships in the onset and maintenance of thoughts of suicide in older adults, though ongoing studies are exploring a variety of risk factors in diverse populations. Much of our research includes variables that are part of Joiner’s (2005) Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide and the model of risk reformulated by Van Orden et al. (2011).

Suicide Risk Among Rural Adults

We are also conducting research aimed at learning more about suicide risk in adults who live in rural communities. Studies have indicated greater risk for suicide among these adults, but so far very few studies have given us insight into factors that may be associated with this high risk. We are currently conducting a pilot study, funded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, aimed at examining the prevalence of thoughts of suicide and history of suicide attempts among adults in several rural counties (PI: Dr. Kelly Cukrowicz). This study is a collaborative study that is part of Project FRONTIER, a large community-based participatory research study being conducted by the F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (PI: Dr. Billy Philips).

Our hope is that these research projects will improve our understanding of suicide risk so that effective prevention and treatment strategies can be created and tested. Our ultimate goal is to save lives and to stop pain and suffering for both the individuals who desire suicide (typically temporarily), as well as their loved ones.


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