Steven Barnett MD is a family physician-researcher with a career focus on health and health research with deaf American Sign Language (ASL) users, their families and communities. Deaf ASL-users comprise a language and sociocultural minority population that experiences disparities in health and healthcare, and is often excluded from health research. Suicide is one of these health disparities. Dr Barnett's goal is to reduce suicide related morbidity and mortality in the deaf population. The objectives of this proposed one-year K18 Mentored Career Enhancement Award is for Dr Barnett to acquire the necessary basic behavioral and social science research (b-BSSR) skills to examine the role of social connectedness in suicide in this population. Specifically, Dr Barnett will work with mentors to learn suicidology, social network analysis and respondent- driven sampling, and will adapt the research methods to be accessible and appropriate for use with deaf ASL- users. Dr Barnett will conduct a pilot research project, guided by the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide, to measure social connectedness and suicide risk with deaf ASL-users. The research will measure the two constructs of social connectedness, structural connectedness and psychological connectedness, by adapting methods of social network analysis and the Interpersonal Needs Questionnaire. Dr Barnett will use these accessible methods and measures with two samples of deaf adult ASL-users, an online sample recruited using respondent-driven sampling, and an in-person sample of deaf ASL-users who are participating in an ongoing clinical trial related to healthy weight. Analyses will examine the associations of structural connectedness, psychological connectedness and proximal suicide risks. Dr Barnett will bring the data and analyses back to his community advisory board and they will work together to interpret research findings and indentify future collaborative research projects. This pilot research project will describe for the first time the social network characteristics of deaf ASL-users that are associated with suicide risks. Rochester NY has a large population of deaf ASL-users, so is an excellent place to conduct health research with deaf ASL-users. With this K18 research and research training, Dr Barnett will bridge two research centers at the University of Rochester: the Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide (CSPS) in the Department of Psychiatry, and the Rochester Prevention Research Center/National Center for Deaf Health Research (NCDHR) in the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine. The focus of this K18 fills an important need in that to date there has been scant research on suicide risk with deaf ASL-users, and no health research with this population has examined social networks, including peer-to-peer recruitment methods. This proposed research, and subsequent research that builds on this b-BSSR foundation, will help achieve the Healthy People 2020 goals to promote health with people with disabilities and to reduce suicide.
Suicide is an important public health concern. Deaf sign language users comprise a population at high risk for suicide. This research will help us understand the relationship between social connectedness and suicide in this population, which will help us to design interventions that will prevent suicide.