Dr. Mike Anestis is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center and an Associate Professor of Urban-Global Public Health in the School of Public Health at Rutgers. He received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 2002 and his Ph.D. in psychology from Florida State in 2011. Dr. Anestis has been a named investigator on approximately $5 million in externally funded suicide prevention grants, including serving as the PI on one of the first randomized controlled trials of lethal means counseling for firearm owning service members – Project Safe Guard. He served on the means safety task force for the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, and the lethal means line of effort for the PREVENTS task force. Dr. Anestis currently serves on the research advisory board for the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM) and chairs the firearms and suicide committee for the American Association of Suicidology (AAS). In 2018, Dr. Anestis was the recipient of the Edwin Shneidman Award from AAS, designating him as the scientist under age 40 and within ten years of having received his or her degree whose research has made the greatest impact on suicide prevention.
In addition to his research, Dr. Anestis frequently engages in advocacy work to increase the awareness of the role of firearms in suicide and travels the country speaking to diverse groups of stakeholders in order to promote safe storage of personal firearms as a method of preventing suicide.
Dr. Anestis’ research focuses on the risk of suicide, both within the military and among civilians, with a particular emphasis on firearms. He has published over 140 peer reviewed scientific articles as well as a recent book entitled Guns and Suicide: An American Epidemic.
Dr. Anestis seeks to understand better who is most at risk for firearm suicide, how factors such as firearm storage practices and firearm beliefs may influence risk, and how to diminish suicide risk among firearm owners. Along these lines, Dr. Anestis recently led Project Safe Guard, a large randomized trial of lethal means counseling for firearm-owning members of the National Guard as an effort to examine how to effectively prompt meaningful and sustained changes in firearm storage behavior among service members. Dr. Anestis also interested in better understanding who has been driving the surge in firearm purchasing behavior during COVID-19, what their motivations are, and to what extent such individuals may require different interventions to reduce their risk for problematic outcomes. Lastly, Dr. Anestis has been particularly interested in better understanding how best to develop persuasive messaging around firearm storage behavior to reach firearm owners who store their firearms unsafely. His work in this area focuses on who is delivering the message, how the content of the message is structured, and in what manner the message is received.
Selected Firearm Publications:
Anestis, M.D. (2018). Guns and suicide: An American epidemic. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Anestis, M.D., Bandel, S.L., Butterworth, S.E., Bond, A.E., Daruwala, S.E., & Bryan, C.J. (2020). Suicide risk and firearm ownership and storage behavior in a large military sample. Psychiatry Research. Advance Online Publication.
Betz, M.E. & Anestis, M.D. (2020). Firearms, pesticides, and suicide: A look back for a way forward. Preventive Medicine. Advance Online Publication.
Anestis, M.D., & Houtsma, C. (2019). What I have is what I am: Differences in demographics, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and firearm behavior and beliefs between firearm owners who do and do not primarily identify as firearm owners. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 116, 157-165.
Anestis, M.D., Houtsma, C., Daruwala, S.E., & Butterworth, S.E. (2019). Firearm legislation and statewide suicide rates: The moderating role of household firearm ownership levels. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 37, 270-280.
Bryan, C.J., Bryan, A.O., Anestis, M.D., Khazem, L.R., Harris, J.A., May, A.M., & Thomsen, C. (2019). Firearm availability and storage practices among military personnel who have thought about suicide: A cross-sectional study. JAMA Network Open, 2, e199160.
Anestis, M.D., Butterworth, S.E., & Houtsma, C. (2018). Perceptions of firearms and suicide: The role of misinformation in storage practices and openness to means safety measures. Journal of Affective Disorders, 227, 530-535.
Anestis, M.D., Selby, E.A., & Butterworth, S.E. (2017). Rising longitudinal trajectories in state level suicide rates: The role of firearm suicide rates and firearm legislation. Preventive Medicine, 100, 159-166. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.04.032
Anestis, M.D., Anestis, J.C., & Butterworth, S.E. (2017). Handgun legislation and changes in statewide overall suicide rates. American Journal of Public Health, 107, 579-581. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303650
Anestis, M.D., & Houtsma, C. (2017). The association between gun ownership and statewide overall suicide rates. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/sltb.12346
Anestis, M.D., & Anestis, J.C. (2015). Suicide rates and statewide laws regulating access and exposure to handguns. American Journal of Public Health, 105, 2049-2058. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302753