Dr. Julie Angerhofer Richards’ groundbreaking work has answered important questions about how to identify patients at high risk of suicide and engage them in risk mitigation. Most notably, in 2023 Dr. Angerhofer and team demonstrated that integrating suicide care as part of routine healthcare is effective for preventing suicide attempts. This study was one of the first to demonstrate that addressing depression and suicidality at least annually with adults during primary care visits is effective for preventing short term risk of self-harm.
Motivated by her personal experiences, Dr. Angerhofer led a series of novel studies supported by one of the first competitive grants from the Kaiser Permanente Office of Community Health. Results from this work have been published in JAMA Health Forum, JAMA Network Open, and Psychiatric Services. Specifically, she demonstrated that patients perceive questions about firearm access as valuable for suicide prevention, but also that answering is difficult, and healthcare organizations have opportunities to improve both who and how they ask about firearm access.
Dr. Angerhofer Richards will receive additional research support from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Gun Violence Research and Education for her work on firearm suicide prevention. The award recognizes Richards’ exemplary leadership in research collaborating with people with lived experience with firearms and with gun violence.
"The patients and clinicians we’ve interviewed over the last several years generally support practices to prevent firearm injury," said Richards, an assistant investigator at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute. “Those who have experienced losing a loved one or are experiencing suicidal thoughts themselves often have really helpful suggestions.”
A motivating legacy
Richards is open about what motivates her research: Her mom died by firearm suicide in 2010. Researchers don't often share personal and painful experiences that are relevant to their work, she said. But personal experiences affect everyone's perspectives, including researchers’. By sharing hers, Richards demonstrates the importance of listening to people with lived experience — a value that infuses her work, which is always in collaboration with clinical partners and members of the communities they serve. "I'm grateful for this opportunity to expand research on firearm suicide prevention," Richards said. "It’s an exciting time to be doing this work. I look forward to learning from my fellow grantees doing innovative work that will save lives and support communities disproportionately impacted by gun violence.”