New funds for Family Safety Net pilot program to implement innovative approach to suicide prevention in northwest Alaska

June 11, 2024

Contact: Jon Meerdink ([email protected])

ANN ARBOR — After developing a brief family-focused  suicide prevention intervention, new funding from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Gun Violence Research and Education will enable an implementation study to find out how to integrate the intervention into regular clinical practice.

The Family Safety Net (FSN) program works to prevent deaths by suicide through a brief intervention that partners with adults to increase gun safety, specifically firearm storage in people’s homes whose family members may be experiencing mental health problems.

Lisa Wexler, Ph.D., of the Institute for Social Research’s (ISR) Research Center for Group Dynamics (RCGD), is leading the research. According to Wexler, FSN’s family-focused interventions have generated positive feedback in the early stages, with 84% of participants showing high satisfaction with the program.

“Our underlying premise is that adults living with others who are experiencing mental health challenges will be receptive to taking preventative actions to make their homes safer,” Wexler said.

The new funds will allow the FSN to be implemented in healthcare settings managed by the Maniilaq Association, a non-profit corporation that provides health, tribal, and social services to residents in the Maniilaq Service Area of northwest Alaska. The FSN was developed in community settings, but the new funding will allow the program to operate in village clinics. Over the next two years, the research team will work through various trials related to implementing the FSN in new settings.

“The FSN brief intervention represents a fundamental shift from solely identifying individuals at heightened suicide risk, which is currently not working, to engaging adult family members in firearm lethal means reduction to keep their loved ones safe,” said Wexler.  “This family-focused approach honors the strong family values of Alaska Native people, and offers a culturally-responsive approach to health care, in the broadest sense.”

The FSN was originally developed through a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and the University of Michigan’s Injury Prevention Center. 

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