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Mental Health


Our research is aimed at developing a more nuanced understanding of suicide risk and developing programs of prevention and support. A short and incomplete list of our current projects and collaborations can be found below.

Longitudinal Evaluation of Suicides in Maryland

Investigators: Paul Nestadt, Patrick Triplett and Ramin Mojtabai

Maryland is sometimes nicknamed “America In Miniature,” and although Maryland posts a lower than average suicide rate, the state serves as a model for studying suicide in several ways. Maryland is more diverse than most of the country, and as a relatively wealthy state Maryland has more resources upon which to draw. One consequence of this is our state wide medical examiner system, which performs thorough and protocolized investigations of every potential suicide in the state. Our group is utilizing this data to identify at risk groups and analyze population patterns in suicide in Maryland, with an eye to applying what we learn to the rest of the country. This work has been featured in the New York Times and on BBC Radio.

School Clustering After Recent Suicide (SCARS) Study

Investigators: Paul Nestadt, Julia Riddle and Karen Swartz

When a student dies by suicide, there is an increased risk of a repeat event in the affected school, known as the Werther Effect. In collaboration with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland, we are characterizing the 265 completed teenage suicides in Maryland over the past 13 years in terms of their high schools using publicly available data. By comparing schools with only a single “sentinel” suicide to ones where there was an imitation event, we can identify risk factors in school type (size, affiliation, rurality, etc) as well as compare success of postventions enacted at the school level.

Alcohol Outlet Density and Suicide Risk

Investigators: Paul Nestadt, Pamela Trangenstein, David Jernigan and Ramin Mojtabai

Alcohol use has long been associated with suicide risk. We are investigating a correlation between the density of alcohol outlets, such as bars and liquor stores, with increased suicide rates across neighborhoods in Baltimore.

Esketamine for Treatment of Suicidality (Clinical Trial)

Investigators: Adam Kaplin and Paul Nestadt

We are one site in a multisite trial funded by Janssen Pharmaceuticals to investigate the utility of esketamine (an intranasally delivered form of ketamine) in the treatment of depression and specifically in the treatment of suicidality in depression.

Johns Hopkins Suicide Prevention Awareness, Response and Coordination (JH-SPARC)

Investigators: Holly Wilcox, Matthew Torres, Elizabeth Kastelic, Mary Vincitore and Spyridon S. Marinopoulos

This project will be conducted in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Student Assistance Program, the JHU Counseling Center, and University Mental Health Services as well as several student groups including Active Minds. JH-SPARC will develop a feasible, practical, sustainable and effective approach to prevent suicide in students.

Goals are to: 1) broaden public awareness of suicide by utilizing marketing and dissemination/ diffusion efforts related to suicide prevention for students; 2) use the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Interactive screening program; 3) increase training opportunities for resident assistants and others on campus who work with students by providing gatekeeper training; 4) provide enhanced parent and student orientation sessions and materials; and 5) conduct continuous quality improvement and evaluation of outcomes. The gatekeeper training will include an engaging and interactive training session tailored to the JHU context and address 1) how to recognize suicide risk upstream, 2) communication and interpersonal skills including how to ask directly about suicide and how to provide support, and 3) how to address stigma and barriers to help-seeking. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Interactive Screening Program (ISP) approach aims to reduce barriers to care by providing a safe and secure online screening platform that allows individuals to anonymously connect and dialogue with a behavioral health professional.

Maryland’s Suicide Prevention and Early Intervention Network (MD-SPIN)

Investigators: Sharon Hoover, Nancy Lever, Janel Cubbage, Larraine Bernstein, Mary Cwik and Holly Wilcox

Maryland’s Suicide Prevention and Early Intervention Network (MD-SPIN) provides a continuum of suicide prevention training, resources, and technical assistance to advance the development of a comprehensive suicide prevention and early intervention service system for youth and young adults. MD-SPIN will increase the number of youth, ages 10-24, identified, referred and receiving quality behavioral health services, with a focus on serving high risk youth populations (LGBTQ, transition age, veterans and military families, youth with emotional and behavioral concerns) and in target settings (schools, colleges/universities, juvenile services facilities, primary care, emergency departments).

Led by the Maryland Mental Hygiene Administration, key partners include the University of Maryland Department of Psychiatry, the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Maryland Coalition of Families for Children’s Mental Health, the Community Behavioral Health Association of Maryland, the public education system (1424 public kindergarten to 12th grade schools, 30 public university/college/community colleges, and 12 juvenile facilities programs), and Maryland pediatric emergency departments.  

Courses and Training:

330.674.81 Suicide As a Public Health Problem – Holly Wilcox and Diana Clarke