New Jersey is a unique state for many reasons, not the least of which being its relatively low suicide rate compared to the rest of the country. Over the past decade, not only has New Jersey had one of the lowest suicide rate each year, the rate of suicides due to firearms has been particularly low and relatively stable compared to other states that have had a steady increase over this time. Interestingly, to our knowledge, there has been no systematic attempt to better understand why the suicide rate is low in NJ, especially the suicide rate due to firearms. Better understanding suicide deaths, especially those via firearm, in NJ may help identify ways to reduce the suicide rate more broadly. Importantly, while it is certainly positive that New Jersey’s suicide rate is among the lowest in the nation, this is simply a relative statistic. Indeed, the annual rate of 2.0 deaths by suicide due to firearm per 100,000 people means someone dies by suicide via firearm every other day in NJ.
Accordingly, the purpose of this study is to better characterize suicides in New Jersey by laying the groundwork for a long-term collaboration with the New Jersey Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner (OCSME). This collaboration is notable as it will build on our newly-formed relationship with the OCSME, which represents a unique and previously undeveloped partnership. This study establishes a formal relationship between our group, the Rutgers Suicide Prevention and Research Center (Rutgers SPARC), and the NJ OCSME. This study also involves SPARC and NJ OCSME working together on a scientific evaluation of suicide deaths in New Jersey. Additionally, as part of this study, individuals from Rutgers SPARC and the NJ OCSME will be trained in the conduct of psychological autopsies, a well-validated research and clinical method that allows unparalleled insight into the psychosocial factors surrounding death by suicide.
Principal Investigator (PI): Evan Kleiman, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology- NB/SAS
Co-Principal Investigator (PI): Shireen Rizvi, PhD, ABPP, Professor, Department of Clinical Psychology – NB/GSAPP