The overarching goals of our research are: to advance understanding of the psychological processes that lead to suicidal and self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (SITBs), to improve our ability to identify when individuals are most at risk for SITBs, and to leverage this knowledge to enhance interventions and preventions for SITBs. Suicidal and self-injurious thoughts and behaviors typically begin during adolescence, and rates increase drastically during this developmental period. The YR² Lab is particularly focused on the development, risk identification, and ultimate prevention of these behaviors in youth. Our research uses a multimodal approach to examine the interplay among risk and resilience factors across self-report, behavioral, and psychophysiological units of analysis, in both large-scale cross-sectional and intensive longitudinal designs. 

Below is a brief overview of the YR² Lab’s major areas of research: 


Self-injurious and suicidal thoughts and behaviors increase drastically during adolescence. Although research has identified risk factors across the lifespan, far less is known about why risk for self-injury and suicide increases significantly during adolescence. Our work seeks to understand why youth engage in nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI), such as the motivations or functions of this behavior, and how these behaviors may increase risk for suicide. In addition, we aim to understand how and why suicidal thoughts develop among youth and, for some, why they progress to suicidal behavior (or suicide attempts). Moreover, we aim to understand resilience factors and why some at-risk youth may not develop suicidal thoughts or engage in suicidal behaviors. Finally, our lab is interested in understanding how risk and resilience factors may vary for youth from diverse backgrounds (also see important work from the Youth Suicide Research Consortium). 


A major focus of our research is to identify risk factors for suicidal behavior in youth that may be modifiable to help reduce suicide risk.  Our recent research has utilized intensive longitudinal methods (ecological momentary assessment [EMA] and wearable sensors [Actiwatch]) to identify short-term, time-varying, and potentially modifiable risk factors for suicidal thoughts and behaviors in high-risk youth (i.e., youth who have been recently hospitalized for suicide risk). Our research has found that these intensive longitudinal methods (EMA) are feasible and acceptable for high-risk youth. In addition, we found that sleep problems (e.g., longer time to fall asleep, presence of nightmares, rumination before bed) predicted greater suicidal thoughts the next day. Moreover, we found that thwarted belongingness with family mediated the link between interpersonal negative life events (e.g., conflict with others) and greater next-day suicidal thinking. Building on these research findings, we are conducting two NIMH-funded studies to clarify the link between interpersonal negative life events and suicidal behavior in high-risk youth (R01MH124899; MPIs Kleiman, Glenn, and Liu) and to treat sleep problems in order to reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviors in high-risk youth (R34MH123590; MPIs Kleiman and Glenn).


The ultimate goal of our research is to use knowledge about the development of suicide and self-injury, and identification or modifiable risk factors to inform interventions and preventions for youth. For instance, a major focus of our current grant-funded research is to incorporate family, and specifically parent, perspectives to enhance assessment and treatment of youth at risk for suicide. Moreover, our recently completed Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant (SAMHSA) helped build sustainable infrastructure on our campus to enhance mental health service provision, improve campus-wide mental health-related attitudes, and reduce college student stress, substance abuse, and suicide risk. We are currently evaluating the impact of these suicide prevention efforts on our campus.