SSW Professors Develop Suicide-Prevention Course

February 24, 2015

Kim O'Brien & Joanna Almeida

When assistant professor Joanna Almeida, Sc.D., M.P.H., M.S.W., joined the Simmons School of Social Work faculty in 2012, she saw a gap in the curriculum. The following year, when Kimberly O’Brien, Ph.D., M.S.W., LICSW was hired as an assistant professor, Almeida saw an opportunity to combine their shared interest in suicide prevention and respective training in prevention and mental health interventions. Soon the two began collaborating to develop a course on suicide prevention that would fill this gap at Simmons School of Social Work – and beyond.

“Many people don’t know that there are twice as many suicides as homicides every year in the United States, and unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the suicide rate hasn’t significantly budged in decades,” say Almeida and O’Brien. They believe that as the first mental health clinician clients often encounter, social workers, and are perfectly poised to address suicidal clients.

Partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and with the help of Dean’s Fellow Emma Gross ’15SSW, Almeida and O’Brien created “Understanding Suicide: Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention,” which they will teach for the first time this spring. Together with the MDPH, they hope to disseminate the course curriculum to other schools of social work throughout Massachusetts. They are also exploring the possibility of offering the course online through SocialWork@Simmons in the future.

“Suicide is the worst outcome for a social worker, and yet, MSW students have minimal training in how to effectively work with suicidal clients” say Almeida and O’Brien. “This course will give social work students the skills they need to help prevent suicide and intervene with suicide attempt survivors and their families.”