American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Announces Diversity as a Research Priority

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (ASFP) announced it would be prioritizing research on diverse populations as part of its 2020­–2022 grant funding cycles. This research will focus on suicide prevention within underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities, as well as the effectiveness of technological tools to prevent suicide, according to the press release. The ASFP will prioritize grants to researchers whose projects focus on these fields.

This year, the ASFP said it is committing more resources to addressing the disparity in mental healthcare access. This research is part of its plan, which also includes improving cultural competency and organizational diversity and inclusion practices and elevating voices in the mental health field with focuses on diverse communities.

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The two-year period from 2020–2022 allows for unsuccessful applicants to revise their submissions. The organization’s news release states that top suicide prevention researchers will be reviewing applications. Grants come mainly through individual donors who attend the organization’s Out of the Darkness walks and other events. Last year, the ASFP awarded $5 million in grants to nearly 40 studies.

ASFP defines “diversity” research as “suicide prevention research related to underrepresented communities, health and mental health disparities and inequities, as well as researchers from underrepresented backgrounds proposing research focused on understanding and preventing suicide.”

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LGBTQ+ people are also at greater risk of suicide attempts, but ASFP says more research is needed to understand how gender and sexual orientation intersect with other identities.

“In an effort to learn more about this issue we suggest that all AFSP-funded researchers who are collecting original data systematically assess research participants for sexual orientation and gender identity,” ASFP’s guidelines state.

According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, American Indians/Alaska Native people have the highest suicide rate, followed by white people Asian and Pacific Islander people, Hispanic people and Black people. The suicide rate per 100,000 people in the U.S. increased by 15.4% in 2009 to 22.1% in 2018.

People of color tend to suffer from poor mental health outcomes due to inaccessibility of quality mental health services, cultural stigma surrounding mental illness and discrimination, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Though some racial and ethnic minorities report lower rates of depression than whites, depression in Black and Hispanic patients is likely to be more persistent, according to data. Overall, systemic racism is, in and of itself, a contributor to poor mental health outcomes.

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“At AFSP, we have made a commitment to eliminate injustice and inequities in mental health and suicide prevention. One way we are working towards this goal by promoting research to understand and prevent suicide in underrepresented racial and ethnic communities and support researchers from these underrepresented groups,” Dr. Jill Harkavy-Friedman, AFSP vice president of research said in the press release. The deadline for submissions is November 15.


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