IASP Special Interest Group (SIG) on Risk, Resilience and Reasons for Living

Co-Chair: Professor Bruce Bongar
Co-Chair: Professor Danuta Wasserman
Co-Chair: Professor Maurizio Pompili


Coordinator: Maryke Harrison


This SIG consists of an international group of researchers, policy makers, and clinicians who collaboratively study culturally specific suicide risk, as well as the development of culturally-adapted suicide assessment measures. The purpose of the SIG is to conduct research collaboratively. The studies done by this group will not only explore the process of the cultural adaptation of measures, but will provide clinical information to inform prevention programs within at-risk cultural groups.

Rationale: Research has shown that the culture with which an individual identifies greatly influences their likelihood of dying by suicide, their reasons for electing to die by suicide and the chosen method of suicide. Conversely, culturally based beliefs and practices have long been regarded as protective against a variety of stressors. It is believed that culture may be both a protective factor and a risk factor in some cultural groups more than others. Since different at-risk groups have unique risk and protective factors, it is justifiable to gain an understanding of the different factors within and between different groups. By focusing on the protective factors within the different groups, prevention and intervention strategies may be informed by an understanding of the cultural elements unique to each at-risk group.

Objectives: The objectives of this SIG are to study warning signs of suicidal behavior and protective factors that may vary or remain consistent cross-culturally. This is also referred to as cultural risk and resilience. This SIG will adapt various measures used for the assessment of suicide risk to different cultures.


Bruce Bongar

Co-Chair:

Bruce Bongar, Ph.D., ABPP, FAPM, CPsychol, CSci, is currently the Calvin Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Palo Alto University, and has previously served as Consulting Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford Medical School. Dr. Bongar received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and served his internship in clinical community psychology with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. For over 25 years, Dr. Bongar maintained a small practice specializing in psychotherapy, consultation and supervision in working with the difficult and life-threatening patient. Past clinical appointments include service as a senior clinical psychologist with the Division of Psychiatry, Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, and work as a clinical/community mental health psychologist on the psychiatric emergency team of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Dr. Bongar is past president of the Section on Clinical Crises and Emergencies of the Division of Clinical Psychology of the American Psychological Association, a diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology, a fellow of the Divisions of Clinical Psychology (Div 12), Psychology and the Law (Div 41), and Psychotherapy (Div 29) of the American Psychological Association, a fellow of the American Psychological Society and of the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine, and a chartered psychologist of the British Psychological Society. Dr. Bongar has also been a winner of the Edwin Shneidman Award from the American Association of Suicidology for outstanding early career contributions to suicide research, and the Louis I. Dublin award for lifetime achievement in research on suicidology. In 2008, he was awarded the Florence Halpern award by the Division of Clinical Psychology of the American Psychological Association for distinguished contributions to the practice of clinical psychology. Since 2001, he has also become interested in the psychology of mass casualty events and suicide terrorism. From 2002-2005, he was the founding director of the National Center on Psychology of Terrorism. His research and published work reflects his long-standing interest in the wide-ranging complexities of therapeutic interventions with difficult patients in general, and in suicide and life-threatening behaviors in particular.


Danuta Wasserman

Co-Chair:

Danuta Wasserman is a Professor in Psychiatry and Suicidology at Karolinska Institutet (KI), and the current Director and Founding Head of the National Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention of Mental Ill-Health (NASP) at KI, since 1993. Dr. Wasserman is also the Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research, Methods Development and Training in Suicide Prevention since 1995 and assists in the development of suicide preventive research and suicide preventive programs on five continents. She is the former President of the European Psychiatric Association (EPA) and the International Academy of Suicide Research (IASR). She is serving on the Board of the EPA since 2008. Until 2013, she served for several years as the Chair of the Suicidology Sections at the EPA and World Psychiatric Association (WPA). Presently, she is the chair of the Suicide Research Network at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP). Professor Wasserman is the Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK, Honorary Member of the Hungarian Psychiatric Association and Honorary President of Estonian-Swedish Mental Health Institute. Dr. Wasserman has won numerous national and international honours and awards, including the Public Health Prize from the Nordic Council of Ministers of Health for the outstanding contribution to public mental health research and prevention, the Distinguished Research Award from the American Foundation for Suicide Research (AFSP), the Hans Rost Prize from the German Association for Suicide Prevention for the outstanding contribution to suicide research and prevention, the Stengel Research Award for outstanding contributions in the field of suicide research and prevention from the International Association for Suicide Prevention and Crisis Intervention (IASP), and from the British Medical Association (BMC) Board of Science Award for the Public Understanding of Science for her book Depression: the facts published by Oxford University Press. Dr. Wasserman is the author of numerous scientific articles, reports and book chapters. She is the editor of the Oxford Textbook of Suicidology and Suicide Prevention: A Global Perspective and Suicide: an unnecessary death, published by Oxford University Press in 2009, 2013. Her comprehensive book for busy clinicians and the broad audience interested in suicide prevention "Suicide an unnecessary death" published by Martin Dunitz (2001) has been translated into Chinese, Japanese and Russian and updated for a new edition by the Oxford University Press (2016). Dr. Wasserman's research activities comprise epidemiological, psychodynamic and genetic studies of suicidal behaviours. In 2009, she received the honour from the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute, to organize the "Nobel Conference on the role of genetics in promoting suicide prevention and the mental health of the population." Summary of the whole conference was published in a special issue of European Psychiatry. She was responsible for organizing several national and international conferences in psychiatry and suicidology. Dr. Wasserman is the Principle Investigator for two large-scale European randomized controlled trials (RCT), "Saving and Empowering Young Lives in Europe (SEYLE)" and "Working in Europe to Stop Truancy Among Youth (WE-STAY)," assessing the effectiveness of different intervention approaches and prevention strategies. Dr. Wasserman is also the chair and a member of several working groups on mental health promotion and suicide prevention.


Maurizio Pompil

Co-Chair:

Maurizio Pompili, M.D, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Suicidology as part of the Faculty of Medicine and Psychology at Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, where he received his M.D. degree, where he trained in Psychiatry (both summa cum laude) and where he has doctoral degree in Experimental and Clinical Neurosciences. He is the Director of the Suicide Prevention Center at Sant'Andrea Hospital in Rome. He was also part of the Community at McLean Hospital - Harvard Medical School, USA where he received a fellowship in psychiatry. He is the Director of Psychiatry Residency Training Program at Sapienza University of Rome. He is the recipient of the American Association of Suicidology's 2008 Shneidman Award for "Outstanding contributions in research in suicidology". He is the Vice-President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and member of the International Academy for Suicide Research and the American Association of Suicidology. He has published more than 350 papers on suicide, bipolar disorders and other psychiatric perspectives, including original research articles, book chapters and editorials. He co-edited ten international books on suicide (including the latest Evidence-based practice in suicidology with Hogrefe & Huberr and Suicide in the words of suicidologists with Nova) and he is the author the latest Italian book on suicide "La Prevenzione del Suicidio, Il Mulino, 2013." Maurizio is particularly active in collaborations with Italian institution such as the Italian Ministry of Health, Italian Health Institute, Dipartimento della Gioventú, Polizia di Stato, Carabinieri, Areonautica Miliatare, Guardia di Finanza, Santa Sede and Vicariato di Roma. He received the "Medaglia del Presidente della Repubblica" as a recognition for the activities of World Suicide Prevention Day 2015.


Maryke Harrison

Coordinator:

Maryke Harrison, MA is currently working on her PhD in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Diversity and Community Mental Health at Palo Alto University. Maryke has been working as a paid consultant, developing and evaluating a mental health empowerment program and a clinical emergencies training program for Native American tribes. Most recently, Maryke is working on the cultural adaptation of the Reasons For Living Inventory and is studying the cultural differences of risk and resilience. Maryke has published and presented on various projects related to suicide and cultural differences. In the past, Maryke has worked in a leprosy colony in India and as project lead in a campus wide HIV/Aids awareness campaign in South Africa. Maryke has her MA in Marriage and Family Therapy and specializes in the therapeutic treatment of chronically and acutely suicidal patients.