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Study Protocol: A randomized controlled trial of suicide risk reduction in the year following jail release (the SPIRIT Trial)

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This article describes the protocol for a randomized effectiveness and cost-effectiveness trial of Stanley and Brown's Safety Planning Intervention (SPI) during pretrial jail detention to reduce post-release suicide events (suicide attempts, suicide behaviors, and suicide-related hospitalizations).


With 10 million admissions per year and short stays (often days), U.S. jails touch many individuals at risk for suicide, providing an important opportunity for suicide prevention that is currently being missed. This study (N = 800) is the first randomized evaluation of an intervention to reduce suicide risk in the vulnerable year after jail release. Given that roughly 10 percent of all suicides in the United States with known circumstances occur in the context of a criminal legal stressor, reducing suicide risk in the year after arrest and jail detention could have a noticeable impact on national suicide rates. Pretrial jail detainees at risk for suicide were randomized to SPI during jail detention plus post-release phone follow-up or to enhanced Standard Care. Outcomes assessed through 12 months post-release include suicide events, suicide attempts, weeks of active suicide ideation, severity of suicide ideation, time to first event, psychiatric symptoms, functioning, and cost-effectiveness. Methods accommodate short jail stays and maximize trial safety and follow-up in a large sample with severe suicide risk, access to lethal means including substances and firearms, high rates of psychiatric illness, and unstable circumstances. The study concluded that funding was important in creating the infrastructure needed to run this large trial cleanly. It encourages funders to provide adequate resources to ensure clean, well-run trials. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020