Why
us ?


We are a research team on teen and young adult suicide and mental health. With international experts, we identify risk and protective factors from large representative population samples around the world.

WHat
we do

We test the effectiveness of prevention programs using randomized controlled trials. We also inform public health policy on teen mental health issues

WHy we study
youth suicide

Suicide is increasingly a leading cause of death in teens and young adults in Canada and worldwide. Further, COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns have seen a 50% increase in hospital visits for adolescent suspected suicide attempts. There is unfortunately insufficient evidence to inform prevention. Teen suicidality is a challenging and complex issue.

our impact

Creating new knowledge
about youth suicide

Suicidal ideation and attempts – a call for action

Our team was the first to prospectively determine the prevalence of teen suicidal ideation and attempts:  22% reported thoughts about suicide, 10% seriously considered it, and 7% attempted. Half of attempters attempted again later in adolescence. They were more likely to have had symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in childhood or been exposed to someone’s suicide. Others, especially girls, attempted suicide only in adolescence and reported depressive symptoms in childhood. These two distinct groups would benefit from early, but differential, school/clinic intervention.

Early childhood problems – on pathway to suicide 

We linked information on 18,000 people born in UK in 1958, with death certificates to trace childhood origins of suicide. This allowed identification, from birth, of people at highest risk of suicide. Notably, boys with severe disruptive problems at age 7 years were 4 times more likely to kill themselves 5 decades later. In subsequent studies with adolescents, we found attempted suicide risk 3-5 times higher in the presence of disruptive problems coupled with depression and anxiety. Disruptive behaviour, but not depression, predicted transitioning from ideation to attempts. We are currently investigating whether a 1984 program for disruptive boys in Grades 1-2 in low-income neighbourhoods successfully reduced medical visits, costs, and suicide attempts by middle age.  

Bullying, cyberbullying – suicide risk

We found higher rates of suicidal ideation and attempts in teens previously bullied, particularly with chronic bullying by peers, independently of prior or concurrent mental health problems. Cyberbullying was an even stronger determinant than face-to-face bullying. A British cohort revealed associations with suicide up to 5 decades later. Bullying/cyberbullying is common, often hidden from parents and teachers, modifiable through intervention, and requires vigilance to prevent scars months and years later.

Building resilience – community prevention

In Canada, the healthcare system lacks professional resources, psychotherapy is expensive and often not available in the public system, and mental health stigma can prevent youth from seeking care. While evidence-based interventions exist, many young people do not receive the care they need. Our search for alternate/complementary strategies demonstrated that physical activity, contact with nature, and strong social support, can help coping and reduce suicidal ideation and attempts.

our impact

In the community

Training psychologists in suicide assessment/intervention

Suicide assessment and intervention are some of the most complex processes psychologists face in their practice, but mandatory courses for Quebec and Canada licensing do not include such training. When offered, quality and quantity of training remain variable. To bridge the gap, we developed a comprehensive evidence-based workshop, with pedagogical clinical psychologists.

Informing clinicians on suicide prevention

We are the principal partner for the ‘Dossier sur la Prévention du Suicide’ of Qualaxia network, an online resource for clinicians and mental healh professionals. We are responsible for creating the content about suicide prevention.

Informing policy on youth mental health

We advise governmental and non-governmental agencies on suicide prevention. Since 2017 we helped develop a Canadian Research and Knowledge Translation Agenda on Suicide and Prevention, co-led by the Public Health Agency of Canada and Mental Health Commission of Canada. With Wisdom2Action, we undertook a research and stakeholder engagement initiative to identify and confirm gaps in youth suicide prevention research. Dr. Geoffroy is the Director of the Mental Health Axis of the Observatory for Children’s Education and Health, a $5-million provincially funded centre on COVID-19 pandemic-related repercussions.

Long-term
vision

To summarize, in innovative and exciting research, we conduct prospective longitudinal cohort studies linked to administrative databases to discern trends and test hypotheses for teen suicide prevention. In addition to the Observatory, Dr. Geoffroy head the McGill Division of the Research Unit on Children’s Psychosocial Maladjustment, an interdisciplinary research network of 50 researchers from 7 universities focusing on pediatric biopsychosocial development. We to collaborate widely with national and international experts and decision-makers from various spheres to strive for new advances and applications for day-to-day knowledge transfer in reducing teen death and improving mental health and quality of life.

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