MSU professor to lead new Suicide Prevention Research Center

“A large number of adults who die by suicide in the US have had contact with a jail in the past year.”
A Michigan State University professor is among three people who will lead the new suicide prevention research center.
Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 3:30 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Research shows that people who spend time in jail are at a higher risk for suicide. Now, there’s a national effort to help save more lives. A Michigan State University professor is among three people who will lead a new National Suicide Prevention Research Center.

Three Michigan jails are joining suicide prevention efforts to meet people where they are in a crisis. More than 30 investigators will help find people who are at risk of taking their own life before it’s too late. The next step is getting them connected with a healthcare provider for further assessment.

1 in 3 men and 1 in 8 women who die by suicide spend at least one night in jail.

“It turns out that contact with the criminal legal system – with police; with the jails – is one of the places that you can find them,” said Jennifer Johnson, C.S. Mott endowed professor at Michigan State University.

Johnson is leading the suicide prevention research center. She said “finding people at risk of suicide before tragedy strikes is an ongoing issue.”

“People who come into contact with the police and jails have many of the risk factors for suicide. They are disproportionally-likely to have mental health problems, disproportionally-likely to have addiction problems, disproportionally-likely to have access to legal means,” said Johnson.

The center will apply computer algorithms from medical records and cross-reference them with jail records.

“There are more than 3,000 jails in the country and there are many, many, many health systems. And there just hasn’t been a way for police or jails to get somebody at risk connected with care in the community. Because like I said they’re there for a day or 2 and then they’re back out in the community,” said Johnson.

Once they’re back out in the community, Johnson said, “they’re at risk for suicide.”

The Prevention Network in Lansing said “Prevention Network aims to cultivate healthy communities through resources, technical assistance, and support. While we focus on substance misuse prevention, it goes hand-in-hand with suicide prevention, and are happy to support/share this with our partners to further the support.”

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