Nationwide Children’s Hospital announced today the creation of the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research, a collaborative effort between Nationwide Children’s Behavioral Health and The Research Institute at the hospital. Nationally, suicide has emerged as the second leading cause of death for adolescents 10 to 19 years old and this new center will be devoted to addressing this tragic, growing problem of suicide among youth. Jeff Bridge, Ph.D., has been appointed director of the new center and John Ackerman, Ph.D., will coordinate suicide prevention initiatives.
“Thirteen students died by suicide in Franklin County last year and seven families in our community have suffered child suicides in just the first six months of 2015,” said John Barnard, MD, President of The Research Institute and Chief of Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “The establishment of this new center is evidence of our steadfast commitment to stopping this devastating trend. We are privileged to have an internationally-known suicidiologist to lead our efforts.”
Dr. Bridge is a faculty scientist in the Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice at The Research Institute and Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. His research focuses on the epidemiology of suicide in young people, with particular attention to factors that put youth at increased risk for suicidal behavior including differences in brain function, their environment, and treatment received. A major aim is to use this research to inform prevention and treatment for youth at risk of suicide. Dr. Bridge currently receives funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for his research in these areas.
In his role as Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Dr. Ackerman’s initial focus will be on implementing the Signs of Suicide (SOS) program in area schools. SOS is an evidence-based prevention tool that aims to raise awareness of suicide, teaches students about risk factors for depression and suicide, and provides students with ways to access support. The goal of the SOS program is to teach middle and high school students to respond immediately with specific action steps to warning signs of suicide, whether those signs are evidenced in themselves or others. Ideally, these action steps will become an automatic response, much like the way the Heimlich maneuver and CPR are taught. Area schools will be offered the SOS program, as well as prevention and crisis management consultation to school leadership at no cost.
“It is hard to understand an adolescent feeling that the only way out of his/her anguish is death, and even more difficult to fathom the many younger children who contemplate ending their lives,” said David Axelson, MD, Chief of Psychiatry and Medical Director of Behavioral Health at Nationwide Children’s and Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. “We have a growing arsenal of treatments and prevention tools. Dr. Ackerman has contributed his expertise to our efforts for the last seven years and his passion for identifying and providing intervention to young people at risk will be invaluable to this new center’s goals.”
The first step to ending the epidemic of child and adolescent suicide is to destigmatize mental illness and its treatment. The Center for Suicide Prevention and Research will be a central resource where youth, parents, schools, clinicians and community partners can access information related to care for individuals at-risk for suicide. Center staff will also work to increase suicide awareness and decrease the stigma of mental health in the community. More information about the Center can be found at www.NationwideChildrens.org/Suicide-Prevention and information about treatment programs can be found at NationwideChildrens.org/Behavioral-Health.