Psychology professor recognized for suicide research

The American Association of Suicidology (AAS) has awarded Jeremy Pettit, associate professor of psychology, the Edwin Shneidman Award for 2013.

The annual award is given to individuals under the age of 40 who have made outstanding early career contributions in the field of suicidology. It is named for Edwin Shneidman, a pioneer in research on suicide and founder of the AAS. Pettit will be honored in April during the association’s annual conference in Austin, Texas.

“It is humbling to read the list of previous Shneidman Award recipients, and I feel privileged to be linked with such outstanding scholars,” Pettit said.

Pettit specializes on the course of depression, anxiety and suicidal behaviors over time. His research includes interpersonal and cognitive factors that contribute to the onset, maintenance and recurrence of these behaviors.

“Although I am pleased to receive this award, it is sobering to realize that suicide remains the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with over 35,000 people dying by suicide each year,” Pettit said. “Clearly, much work remains to be done and my hope is that our work, together with the work of other researchers and mental health professionals across the country, will enable us to understand and prevent suicide.”

Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Pettit spoke to FIU News about psychological cues of depression and possible warning signs that someone may be at risk of suicide.

“In a statistical sense, these are very rare events – albeit tragic events – so it is challenging for us to find reliable predictors [of events like what happened in Newtown],” Pettit said. “It is reasonable to assume that the more warning signs present, in conjunction with access to firearms, and especially among individuals who have a prior history of self-harm or violence, indicates a high level of risk.”

An expert in anxiety and depression, Pettit has written more than 80 scientific papers and received numerous awards and grants for his work in this area.

Since 1968, the American Association of Suicidology promotes research, public awareness programs, public education and training for professionals and volunteers. AAS is a non-profit organization that serves as a national clearinghouse for information on suicide.


By Ayleen Barbel Fattal

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