MCMASTER CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL FOUNDATION
I AM SAFE SUICIDE PREVENTION INTERVENTION AND STUDY
TOTAL FUNDS RECEIVED IN 2021
34% HOSPITAL PROGRAMS
HOSPITAL PROGRAM OVERVIEW
More Canadian youth die by suicide than from the top 10 fatal diseases in this population combined.
To address the urgent need for effective suicide prevention strategies, mental health experts have developed a new and innovative six-week psychotherapy program called I AM SAFE, focused on improving family communication, reducing conflict and increasing coping skills. “Our goal is to help these teens to be teenagers and not patients. They need to know that there are solutions to their problems that do not involve self-harm,” explains Dr. Khrista Boylan, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at McMaster Children’s Hospital.
With support from Sobeys, McMaster Children’s Hospital is working alongside SickKids Hospital and Alberta Children’s Hospital to test the effectiveness of this intervention program through a multi-site clinical trial. The goal of the trial is to develop a new standard of care for patients who present at Emergency Departments at risk of suicide or self-harm. Currently, many such patients are sent home and referred to community programs – but there is no systematic intervention to address effective communication between parents/guardians and patients to ensure they are navigating their challenges effectively together.
After developing research protocols and other fundamentals in 2020, in 2021 the three hospitals involved in the I AM SAFE clinical trial began recruiting patients. At McMaster Children’s Hospital, a new team member, Imayan Neela, Research Coordinator of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, has led the recruitment process and engaged six patients in the trial.
Patients become eligible for participation in the study at our site when they present at the Emergency Department at McMaster Children’s Hospital with risk of suicidal ideation or self-harm. Alongside whatever support is provided right away according to the existing standard of care, the patients and families are asked whether they wish to participate in a research project that may involve receiving additional mental-health resources and guidance. Those who agree to participate receive a baseline assessment to help researchers understand how they’re doing before the I AM SAFE intervention. For those patients assigned to the treatment group (as opposed to the control group, which receives the existing standard of care) the entire family undergoes a six-week program designed to foster open communication and help them navigate their challenges together as a family. The patients’ and families’ status is assessed during the program period, at its conclusion (after the final session), and eighteen weeks later. We look forward to providing further updates as the study progresses.