JPS to Use Grants to Research Suicide Prevention

March 26th, 2019

The Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation on Tuesday donated $52,000 to JPS Health Network to be used for research about how to recognize and treat depression in effort to prevent suicide.

Representatives of the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation deliver a donation for suicide prevention research to JPS Health Network on Tuesday, March 26, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Representatives of the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation deliver a donation for suicide prevention research to JPS Health Network on Tuesday, March 26, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Health network leaders gratefully accepted the donation and announced it will be matched by a $100,000 grant from the JPS Foundation.

“This is truly an opportunity to make a difference in the community and across Tarrant County,” Zelia Baugh, Executive Vice President and Behavior Health Administrator at JPS, said of the donation. “It will help to save lives.”

The issue of suicide has made national news over the past week with two surviving students from the Parkland School mass shooting in Florida taking their own lives. The father of a student killed in the Sandy Hook School mass shooting in 2012 also took his life last week.

Psychologist Dr. Cynthia Claassen, a psychiatrist with Acclaim Behavioral Health at JPS Health Network and a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC), said suicide is an increasing problem, both across the country and locally. More than 2,200 people have taken their own life in Tarrant County over the last decade. Not only is suicide a loss of the victim’s life, their friends and family often suffer for years – if not the rest of their lives – blaming themselves for not recognizing signs of depression or for not finding a way to save their loved one.

 “Each of these individuals seriously affects the life of another 20 people around them,” Claassen said of people who commit suicide. “That’s 40,000 people in the community who bleed because someone took their own life.”

Jordan “Jo” Harris, from North Richland Hills, was an honor student at the University of Michigan with deep ties to charities around the globe, according to her father, Tom Harris. She took her own life in 2012. While he grieves over the loss of his daughter every day, Harris said it is fitting that the charity named after Jo is still helping others. She would have been proud to help JPS, he believes.

“The things this organization is doing is just incredible,” Harris said. “We’re privileged to be here to be able to provide a gift like this to the hospital.”

In addition to donating to organizations that research and treat depression, Harris said The Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation works in Tarrant County Schools to educate students about depression and suicide, the third-leading cause of death for people under 24 in the United States.

Robert Earley, President and CEO at JPS, said the grant money will be used to study predictive analytics in identifying suicide risk.

Research will involve looking at all JPS deaths over the last five years as a result of suicide. Data from electronic medical records will be used to identify common social determinants and denominators among the patients whose personal identities will be protected.  The similarities in the cases could be predictive of someone at high risk for suicide without having to conduct in-person suicide risk assessment screening. According to Baugh, current suicide screening tools rely on patients being honest, which they often aren’t when it comes to their thoughts about taking their own life. Sometimes, Baugh added, patients don’t realize they’re in danger.

Earley said the fight against suicide is a battle Tarrant County can’t afford to lose.

“We will never be daunted by the tough tasks ahead,” Earley said. “We’re grateful for this donation, such a strong commitment to where we’re going in the future.”


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