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St. Luke’s aims to help fill gaps in what science knows about preventing suicide with new studies

October 7, 2020

St. Luke’s is conducting a pair of studies that are intended to fill in the gaps of what the scientific community knows about one of the leading causes of death in Idaho - suicide.

The goal is to use the results to determine the most-effective approach to preventing someone from attempting suicide and ensure that people receive appropriate behavioral health treatment.

St. Luke’s is proud to be at the forefront of suicide prevention research, developing innovative and timely studies to contribute to the science of suicide prevention work in Idaho and across the country. Oct. 4-10 is Mental Health Awareness Week.

The Applied Research Division and Behavioral Health Service Line are leading the research. Both studies are funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

  • The Suicide Prevention Among Recipients of Care (SPARC) Trial is a three-year randomized clinical trial that compares two evidence-based interventions to prevent suicidal ideation and behavior in adults and adolescents who screen positive for suicide risk in St. Luke’s emergency departments and primary care clinics. A safety plan supplemented by two versions of a follow-up intervention from the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline will be compared. Enrollment is expected to begin in mid-2021.
  • The second study will focus on mental health during COVID-19 and was announced Nov. 11. The Mental Health Among Patients, Providers, and Staff (MHAPPS) study will include a survey of up to 2,000 providers and staff, and 2,000 adult and adolescent patients to determine the prevalence of various measures of mental distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. A randomized clinical trial with 560 participants who report elevated levels of mental distress on the initial survey will follow. Two caring contact interventions will be studied, including text messages to support individuals struggling with mental distress and suicide.
Dr. Anna Radin
Dr. Anna Radin will be the studies’ principal investigator.

Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States. On average, one person dies by suicide every 12 minutes. Idaho’s suicide rate is the sixth-highest in the country, 50% above the national average. Suicide rates have risen by at least 30% in more than half of U.S. states since 1999. Eight of the 10 states with the highest suicide rates in the US are in the Intermountain West.

Research indicates that half of those who complete suicide had sought medical care in the previous month. Health systems have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to do more to help identify suicide risk and prevent suicide among our patients.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted individuals and communities, impacting physical, mental, and emotional health. A CDC Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report published in August indicated that suicide rates have tripled since the start of the pandemic: Nearly 11% of adults surveyed had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days, with significantly higher rates for young adults ages 18-24 (25.5%).

The St. Luke’s studies will attempt to address some gaps in successful suicide prevention methods. These studies will be among the first that have focused on health systems serving patients in both rural and urban settings, and will be the first large scale clinical trials of suicide prevention in the Intermountain West Region.

- story contributed by Anton Skeie, MD and Tara Fouts, MHS

Related Specialty

Behavioral Health

Compassionate care in managing conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, PTSD, OCD, and more.