Western Kentucky University has received a federal grant to conduct research on suicide and self-harm in adolescents. The $413,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is for a three-year project to address a growing mental health concern. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for ages 15-to-34 in Kentucky.
WKU Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences Amy Brausch is the lead researcher on the study.
“Non-suicidal self-injury is kind of the technical term for behaviors that are still self-injuring. So most people are familiar with cutting that sometimes adolescents will do. And it’s self-injury that does not have the intent to die. So it’s used for different purposes, usually to help regulate really strong negative emotions,” said Brausch.
She said parent permission is required for student volunteers from area schools to participate, and the student input is confidential.
“They’re really interested in the topic. They know if they or their friends have had self-injury or suicidal thoughts, and usually we’re able to recruit them in,” said Brausch. “We are going to ask them to participate a few different times across about a-year-and-a-half, to see how self-harm develops in adolescents and how it changes over time.”
The study will seek to identify early warning signs in adolescents that may indicate increased risk. The overall goal of the project is to improve treatment for suicide prevention.
Note: If you or anyone you know if having thoughts of suicide, it's important to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. The Lifeline is available 24/7 and provides free and confidential support for people in distress.