Frequently Asked Questions

(Click here for Research related FAQs)

Understanding Suicide FAQs

What is the best language to use when talking about suicide? 

The words we choose can sometimes sound harsh or judgmental, even when we don’t mean them to. It is best to follow the lead of those who have been affected by suicide when talking about this sensitive subject. Although we may hear that someone has "committed suicide," most people find "died by suicide" to be more objective and less judgmental. The term “suicide” is best used to describe the act, but not the person who died in that way. Nobody wants to hear their loved one’s life summed up by the circumstances of their death. It is generally accepted to refer to "someone who died by suicide" with those words, or as a "suicide decedent." The term "successful suicide" can be hurtful and jarring; a suicide is never a success.

How many people die each year by suicide? 

In 2011 (the most recent year for which data are available), 39,518 suicide deaths were reported in the United States, making suicide the tenth leading cause of death for Americans. That year, someone in the U.S. died by suicide every 13.3 minutes .

What is the most frequent cause of suicide? 

At least 90 percent of all people who died by suicide were suffering from a mental illness at the time, most often depression. Among people who are depressed, intense emotional states such as desperation, hopelessness, anxiety, or rage increase the risk of suicide. People who are impulsive, or who use alcohol and drugs, are also at higher risk.

Are males or females more likely to kill themselves? 

In all age groups in the U.S., about 75 to 80 percent of people who die by suicide are male. However, females account for about 75 percent of all non-fatal suicide attempts. This reflects the more frequent use by males of firearms and other highly lethal suicide methods. Females more frequently make suicide attempts using medications and other poisons, increasing the opportunity to save their lives. As the use of firearms as a suicide method has increased among females in recent years, we are seeing a gradual increase in the percentage of suicide decedents who are female. 

What are the most frequent methods used for suicide? 

In the U.S. population overall, firearms are the most common suicide method for men and for women it is poisoning. More than half of all people who take their own lives do so with a firearm, accounting for more than 19,000 deaths each year. Among children and teens, the most frequent methods are hanging and jumping.

Is it true that suicides are more frequent around the December holidays? 

No, suicides are not more frequent around December holidays. In fact, suicide rates tend to be highest in the spring months, peaking in April, and are below average during the winter months, with the lowest rate in December.

Is the risk for suicide inherited? 

Suicide, as well as suicide risk factors such as depression and bipolar illness, tends to run in families. However, having a family member who is depressed or who died by suicide does not mean that you will become depressed or die by suicide. Because they are at greater risk, however, people who have a family history of suicide or mental illness should be particularly alert to psychiatric symptoms in themselves and get an evaluation as early as possible. 

Are gay, lesbian, and bisexual people more likely to die by suicide? 

Studies to date have not given us good answers about the relationship between sexual orientation and suicide. In large part, that’s because a person’s sexual orientation is not recorded on the death certificate, the primary source of data on national mortality. Gender identify also is not recorded on the death certificate, so we don’t know how suicide rates for transgender people compare with the general population. A considerable number of reliable studies, however, have reported that those who identify as LGBT report higher rates of suicide attempts. Research suggests that stigma and discrimination play a strong role in these elevated rates, along with higher rates of mental illness, including depression and alcohol and drug use.

AFSP Suicide Research Grants Program FAQs

How much competition is there for AFSP’s Suicide Research Grants?

The number of grant applications we receive has increased markedly in recent years, making funding increasingly competitive. In the past few years AFSP has received about 150 applications per year.

Do some categories of grants have a better chance of being funded by AFSP than others?

AFSP does not set a quota for the number of grants in each category (Distinguished Investigator Grants, Young Investigator Grants, etc.) that will be funded in a particular cycle. Grants are selected for funding based on their individual merit. Applicants should select the grant category that is most appropriate to their level of research experience and to the type of research proposed. A relatively new investigator who has had a number of years of formal or informal mentored research may be more favorably considered for a Standard Research Grant than for a Young Investigator Grant, for example.

Do certain research areas receive priority?

We encourage and welcome all applications related to suicide, and all proposals are judged for their responsiveness to existing needs in suicide research.. Additionally, AFSP designates one or more Priority Research Areas for each two-year period. Priority area applications are reviewed along with the general pool of grant applications, and an application in the current priority area may receive preference over an application receiving a similar score that is not in the priority area.

Is my research on an underlying condition that may affect suicide risk (e.g., depression or other mood disorder, or a neurobiological dysfunction) appropriate for an AFSP grant?

The AFSP Suicide Research Grants Program funds studies with the greatest potential to advance current knowledge about suicide and suicide prevention. If you wish to propose basic or mood disorders research, your application should clearly demonstrate how your findings will enhance the understanding or prevention of suicide. Proposals that do not clearly relate to suicide, no matter how scientifically sound, will not be considered for funding.

Must grant applicants have a doctoral degree?

The AFSP Suicide Research Grants Program is designed with postdoctoral investigators in mind, and almost all funded proposals include an investigator holding a Ph.D. or M.D. Exceptional proposals from applicants who do not hold a doctorate are considered in our Standard Grants , Young Investigator Grants and Pilot Grants categories. 

Can international applicants apply for AFSP grants?

AFSP grants and fellowships may be awarded to applicants at institutions outside the U.S., as well as to international applicants working at U.S. institutions, provided that they meet the eligibility requirements described in the AFSP Policy Statement for the appropriate grant category.

If my study is approved for funding by both AFSP and another agency, may I hold both grants simultaneously for my study?

No, if your grant or fellowship is accepted for AFSP funding, you must decline other offers of support for the same or substantially similar research. Failure to reveal another source of funding for the study will result in termination of AFSP funding.

Must I have approval from my Institutional Review Board (or other relevant committee for human subjects protection) before submitting my grant application?

You should submit your research proposal to the relevant human subjects committee at the sponsoring institution at the same time you submit it to AFSP and indicate this submission on the Certification for Protection of Human Subjects part of your application. Work on AFSP-funded grants may not begin until AFSP has received proof of IRB or human subjects' committee approval.

Should I include a full CV for each investigator on the proposed research?

CVs are not to be included in the application. Instead, relevant information from each investigator's CV should be abstracted and included in the Biographical Information form included in the application packet.

What expenses may I include in the budget? Are overhead or indirect costs allowed?

AFSP does not fund indirect costs.  Allowable and non-allowable costs vary among our grant categories, and are outlined in the Policy Statement Policy Statement for each category . The relevant Policy statement should be carefully reviewed by the applicant before the budget is prepared, as funds requested for non-allowable items will be subtracted from the grant total in the event that an award is made

Allowable and Non-Allowable Costs

Click above to view a summary of allowable and non-allowable costs divided by grant mechanism.

Can additional materials be included in an Appendix?

Appendices should be limited to data collection measures or instruments unlikely to be familiar to reviewers, treatment manuals, and other materials directly related to the proposed research. Letters of support from research consultants or collaborators should also be included in an appendix. If your application includes use of a laboratory, imaging facility, or other venue, please include their letters of agreement to conduct the proposed procedures, as outlined in the application.

Any tips on submitting a competitive application?

Problems related to patient recruitment are the single most common reason for premature termination of AFSP grants. For treatment research and other clinical studies, be sure to address the issue of patient or subject availability, and to support your recruitment and enrollment projections with empirical data wherever possible. If your potential sample size is small, you may wish to consider proposing a feasibility study rather than a hypothesis-testing study, which requires a larger sample size.

Will I receive feedback on my proposal?

All applicants receive a final priority score ranging from 1.0 to 9.0 shortly after funding decisions are made. Applicants who are not funded will receive a written summary of the reviewers' comments.

When can I start my project? What happens if the project is delayed?

You may begin work on your funded research project after the Principal Investigator has received an email from AFSP stating that we have on file the following items: 1) your signed “confirmation-of-readiness” form, 2) proof of IRB approval, 3) start date and timeline, 4) payee information for addressing grant funds, 5) a final budget, and 6) a photograph of the principal investigator. Delays in submitting these documents will result in funding delays.  The AFSP Research Grants Committee determined that grants failing to begin within 6 months of their award date will be terminated but could be resubmitted the next grant cycle.

Can I get a no-cost extension?

AFSP requires semi-annual progress reports and financial reports as a condition of continued funding and a final report 60 days after project completion. Grants not showing adequate progress will have their funding suspended until we receive evidence of sufficient progress. If your project runs behind schedule in recruiting or following up with subjects, procuring materials, or for any other reason, AFSP will consider your written request to extend the grant period and grant payments. That is, grants not making adequate progress will have funding suspended until progress has been shown. In some instances, if our review determines that adequate progress cannot be made, we will withdraw funding. If additional time is needed after all payments have been received—for example, to prepare manuscripts or conduct additional data analyses—you must request an extension, including a timeline for completing the work. We may grant a no-cost extension of up to one year to allow you time to submit a final report. Submission of a final report is required for future grant funding.

May I include two mentors on a Young Investigator Grant to include experts in more than one field?

Only one mentor will receive the mentor’s fee, and should be the individual whose expertise and experience is most relevant to the proposed research. An additional expert who will be involved in the study should be listed on the budget page as a co-investigator or consultant, including any applicable fee. The role of each co-investigator or consultant should be described in the Budget Justification.

Can the mentor fee include fringe benefits?

No, the mentor's fee is limited to $5,000 for each study year, or $10,000 maximum.

Can the mentor fee be waived?

If the mentor waives his or her fee, the maximum grant award will be reduced to $75,000 over 2 years.  The mentor fee cannot be applied to the proposed project.

When resubmitting an application that was not funded in an earlier cycle, should any changes be made in the application process or packet?

Resubmissions are encouraged only when the applicant believes that key concerns and recommendations in the reviewers' comments can be adequately addressed. When resubmitting an application, the application should include a cover letter clearly identifying the original application title and number, date of submission, and the priority score received. The letter should summarize how each of the reviewers’ concerns and recommendations has been addressed in the revised application. The letter should clearly explain the reason for failing to follow any recommendations included in the review. This letter will be an important part of the proposal review.

Are resubmitted applications reviewed by the same reviewers who evaluated the original application? 

Wherever possible, the reviewers are the same.

Are resubmissions funded at a higher rate than original applications?

A resubmitted application that adequately addresses reviewer concerns generally has a good chance of funding. However, overlooking, dismissing, or not adequately addressing reviewer concerns often results in a lower priority score than the original application.

How many times may I submit a grant?

You may submit a grant application up to three times: the initial submission and up to two resubmissions.