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Creating & Testing a Suicide Prevention Curriculum for Domestic Violence Crisis Lines

Research Project 1: Creating and Testing a Suicide Prevention Curriculum for Domestic Violence Crisis Lines

Principal Investigator: Catherine Cerulli, JD, PhD (University of Rochester Medical Center)

Project Period: 8/1/2012 through 7/31/2015

Abstract: Depression is a devastating public health concern which leads to decreased life expectancy and reduced quality of life. Untreated, depression can lead to hopelessness and increased morbidity and mortality. Intimate partner violence (IPV) is also a public health problem affecting 44% of women and 30% of men over their lifetime. Among IPV victims, depression is the leading comorbid disease and most often untreated.

This study deploys suicide prevention training to IPV hotline counselors, from whom victims often seek advice to change their lives. We will train IPV hotline workers at the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) agency located in Austin, Texas. The hotline receives over 20,000 calls per month. Given preliminary studies, it is likely that almost one-third of those callers have suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STB).

The study’s goal is to improve IPV hotline workers’ ability to listen for STB and refer IPV victims for mental health care. This study, based on community-based participatory research principles (CBPR), capitalizes on an already existing relationship IPV victims have with their advocates by providing IPV hotline counselors with the opportunity to help modify a suicide prevention curriculum for use on an IPV hotline and offer ongoing feedback. The study:

  1. Tailors a currently established IPV-STB curriculum for use with crisis hotlines,
  2. Examines IPV hotline counselors’ acceptability of an IPV-STB curriculum,
  3. Estimates the impact of the IPV-STB curriculum on IPV hotline counselors’ knowledge, attitudes, and skills regarding suicide prevention immediately post-curriculum delivery, 3 and 6-months, and
  4. Examines whether baseline measures (knowledge, attitudes, and skills) and attendee characteristics (race, age, gender, and tenure with the agency) moderate attendee skills at 6 months.

The study will forward implementation science generally through investigation of training methods for IPV hotline counselors and adoption of suicide prevention strategies specifically through careful measurement of trainee characteristics, knowledge, attitudes, skills, and fidelity. The results of this innovative study could provide the necessary empirical foundation for IPV advocates to become frontline suicide prevention experts for a population with which they have both access and relationships: untreated IPV victims.