What is something you’re proud of in your work?
Understanding suicide risk is complicated, and preventing suicide death is difficult. Suicide prevention is particularly challenging when firearms are involved, as firearms are the most common and lethal suicide method. For these reasons, I believe that firearm suicide research should be population-centered, and I take pride in working collaboratively to generate new insights on firearm suicide within populations that are often overlooked in the academic literature or public policy narratives.
A few specific examples of this come to mind from my recent work. First, on our project funded by the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research, my Co-PI (Dr. Laura Prater at Ohio State University), colleagues from the University of Washington, and I were able to conduct one of the first studies leveraging the power of machine learning to generate new insights on the circumstances preceding firearm suicide death among women. Although suicide death is often exclusively thought of as a mental health issue, we found that interpersonal disputes and problems with intimate partners often precede female firearm suicide deaths. Second, working with Drs. Fernando Wilson (University of Utah) and Francisco Brenes (Florida International University), we estimated that significantly fewer Hispanic than non-Hispanic firearm suicide decedents undergo treatment for mental health or substance use disorders prior to death. And third, working with Dr. Wilson and Elise Bailey (Ph.D. student in the Department of Population Health Sciences), we found that interpersonal discrimination is associated with a greater likelihood of suicidal thoughts among Hispanic mental healthcare patients. These studies demonstrate the importance of being population-specific in suicide research, especially when trying to understand how social and cultural factors might influence suicide-related outcomes within different populations.