Center for the Prevention of Suicide

Introduction and Overview

Approximately 40,000 individuals die by suicide each year in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide is a leading cause of death for various sectors of the population. The study and further refinement of treatments to prevent suicide are crucial to reducing its global burden, as well its impact on the resources of mental health facilities within the United States.

Directed by Dr. Gregory K. Brown, the Center for the Prevention of Suicide at the Aaron T. Beck Psychopathology Research Center was founded to develop empirically supported treatments to prevent suicide in high-risk populations. Dr. Beck’s initial studies of suicide provided a framework for the classification and assessment of suicidal thoughts and behaviors for the first time. Of particular importance, he and his colleagues identified clinical and psychological variables, most prominently hopelessness, that predict death by suicide. Dr. Brown extended this work by collaborating with Dr. Beck to develop a brief, targeted intervention called Cognitive Therapy for Suicide Prevention that was found to reduce repeat suicide attempts by 50% compared to enhanced usual care (4).

Current research focuses on identifying risk and protective factors surrounding suicide and evaluating the efficacy and effectiveness of psychosocial interventions such as Cognitive Therapy for Suicide Prevention and Safety Planning. The Center for the Prevention of Suicide also offers clinical training in suicide prevention. Please find more information here.


Current Projects

Cognitive Therapy for Suicidal Older Men: This NIMH-funded randomized controlled trial seeks to investigate the effectiveness of Cognitive Therapy for Suicide Prevention adapted for older men in decreasing risk for suicide. Men over the age of 60 are currently being recruited from the Philadelphia VA and from the University of Pennsylvania health system for participation in this trial.

Management of Suicide-Related Events during Deployment: This DoD-funded study aims to develop standards of care for suicidal soldiers during deployment. Specifically, procedures for decisions regarding the evacuation of suicidal service members from the deployed setting, safety management of suicidal soldiers kept in a deployed environment, and postvention following the suicide or suicide attempt of a soldier during deployment will be developed through expert consensus meetings.

Pilot Project for the Development of a Suicide Attempt Registry and Classification of Suicidal Behavior for Adults: This ASFP-funded study aims to test the feasibility of developing and implementing a multi-site suicide attempt registry in the psychiatric emergency department.

Suicide Assessment and Follow-up Engagement: Veteran Emergency; Treatment (SAFE VET) Demonstration Project: A VA-funded Clinical Demonstration Project goals are to enhance the care of suicidal Veterans by 1) improving the identification of suicidal veterans; 2) linking suicidal veterans to appropriate care, and 3) providing a brief ED-based intervention to reduce suicide risk (safety planning).

A Brief Intervention to Reduce Suicide Risk in Military Service Members and Veterans: This MOMRP-funded research study aims to examine the effectiveness of the SAFE VET Clinical Demonstration Project described above.

Anxiety and Suicide Attempts:  This AFSP-funded study seeks to examine the role of emotion dysregulation in the relation between anxiety and suicide attempts. Participants are currently being recruited from local emergency departments and psychiatric inpatient units.


Selected Publications

  1. Stanley, B., & Brown, G. K. (2012). Safety planning intervention: A brief intervention to mitigate suicide risk. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 19(2), 256-264.
  2. Stirman, S. W., Brown, G. K., Ghahramanlou-Holloway, M., Fox, A. J., Chohan, M. Z., & Beck, A. T. (2011). Participation bias among suicidal adults in a randomized controlled trial. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 41(2), 203-209.
  3. Brown, G. K., Steer, R. A., Henriques, G. R., & Beck, A. T. (2005). The internal struggle between the wish to die and the wish to live: A risk factor for suicide. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(10), 1977-1979.
  4. Brown, G. K., Have, T. T., Henriques, G. R., Xie, S. X., Hollander, J. E., & Beck, A. T. (2005). Cognitive therapy for the prevention of suicide attempts: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, 294(5), 563-570.
  5. Henriques, G., Wenzel, A., Brown, G. K., & Beck, A. T. (2005). Suicide attempters’ reaction to survival as a risk factor for eventual suicide. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(11), 2180-2182.
  6. Brown, G. K., Henriques, G. R., Sosdjan, D., & Beck, A. T. (2004). Suicide intent and accurate expectations of lethality: Predictors of medical lethality of suicide attempts. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72(6), 1170-1174.
  7. Brown, G. K., Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Grisham, J. R. (2000). Risk factors for suicide in psychiatric outpatients: A 20-year prospective study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68(3), 371-377.
  8. Beck, A. T., Brown, G. K., Steer, R. A., Dahlsgaard, K. K., & Grisham, J. R. (1999). Suicide ideation at its worst point: A predictor of eventual suicide in psychiatric outpatients. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 29(1), 1-9.
  9. Beck, A. T., Kovacs, M., & Weissman, A. (1975). Hopelessness and suicidal behavior: An overview. Journal of the American Medical Association, 234, 1146-1149