HCN News & Notes

Katie Lewis of Austin Riggs Center Wins Grant for Suicide Study

STOCKBRIDGE — Katie Lewis, research psychologist at the Austen Riggs Center, has received the competitive Young Investigator Innovation Grant from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) for her study, “Impact of Interpersonal Experiences on Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors.” Her study was one of fewer than 10 chosen out of 175 applications.

Lewis’ study seeks to understand the ways in which daily interpersonal experiences and momentary interpersonal ruptures influence the development of suicidal ideation and engagement in self-destructive behaviors, in individuals diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness. As part of this grant, she will have the opportunity to work with Dr. Thomas Joiner, a leading expert on suicide.

Despite ongoing research and the development of intervention programs, suicide rates have consistently increased over the last 15 years. The presence of identified risk factors alone has been shown to carry poor predictive value for suicidal behavior when considered at the individual level. There have been few studies of how daily interpersonal interactions affect suicidal ideation and behavior, and little is known about whether momentary interpersonal ruptures in daily life are associated with proximal increases in suicide risk. 

For these reasons, achieving a greater understanding of the immediate impact of interpersonal experiences on suicidal thoughts and behaviors is essential, as interpersonal interactions are ubiquitous, and the quality of interpersonal relationships is highly amenable to improvement through psychiatric treatment.

“The proposed study will be the first of its kind to examine the impact of interpersonal experiences and momentary interpersonal ruptures on the development of suicidal ideation and self-destructive behavior, in real time over the course of 14 consecutive days,” Lewis said. “Findings from this study will contribute to knowledge about the influence of daily interpersonal exchanges on risk and resilience in suicidal individuals.”

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