We imagine a world where we fully understand and can prevent suicide—and believe that sound scientific research is key to achieving this vision. Encouraging and supporting research across all the disciplines that contribute to our understanding of suicide and suicide prevention has been the cornerstone of AFSP for over twenty-five years.
At the heart of our efforts are start-up grants to researchers for innovative studies that have the potential to move the field forward. We rigorously identify and support pioneering research with the goal of finding new and better ways to understand and prevent suicide.
Believing young investigators are our future, we also support early-career scientists to pursue independent suicide research with the guidance of a mentor who has already made significant contributions to the field. Through these grants, we are growing an international community of scientists dedicated to preventing the loss of life from suicide. In addition, we supplement studies funded by other sources so that investigators are able to include meaningful numbers of individuals who are suicidal or who have been touched by suicide loss.
AFSP-funded research has produced ground-breaking new information for the field—identifying alterations in brain structure and function that are associated with suicide, developing treatments to give people at risk tools to combat their troubling thoughts and prevent suicidal behavior, and determining that barriers on bridges can reduce suicide rates from jumping without substantial increases in deaths from nearby bridges. Findings like these have increased our understanding of the mechanisms that underlie suicide and shaped prevention efforts in the U.S. as well as other parts of the world.
Recognizing that a complex array of factors contributes to suicide risk, AFSP research grants support many different types of studies:
- Neurobiological studies of brain mechanisms that may increase or lessen suicide risk.
- Genetic studies that illuminate the hereditability and genetics of suicide and suicide risk factors in families.
- Psychosocial studies that lead to the identification of risk factors and warning signs.
- Clinical treatment studies in which researchers test the effectiveness of psychotherapies, medications and other biological interventions like ECT (electric convulsive therapy) in reducing suicidal behavior and suicide risk.
- Community intervention studies aimed at identifying effective ways of preventing suicide in the general community.
- Survivor studies directed towards understanding the impact of suicide on those who have experienced suicide loss, and how people can be supported through suicide bereavement.
- International studies that help identify the similarities and differences among different cultural contexts in which suicide occurs.
On the national and international stage, AFSP is collaborating with other funders and the suicide prevention community-at-large to set research priorities that are most likely to advance suicide prevention practice through the development of evidence-based approaches.