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Please note that this website includes discussion of mental health and suicide.

The Suicide Prevention Institute (SPI) began in 7/2022 with two team members. The initial task was to have conversations, to listen and learn via more than 150 talks with UNC, Triangle, NC, US, and international people. The perspectives these people have had are extremely diverse, and included (in alphabetical order): administrators, clergy, educators, family practitioners, graduate students, internists, lived experience representatives, marginalized community representatives, medical students, mental health clinicians, neuroscientists, pediatricians, peer supporters, philosophers, post-doctoral scholars, private practitioners, professors, “psychiatric survivors”, psychiatrists, psychologists, public health scholars, social workers, statisticians, and undergraduate students. Meeting with the families of people who died by suicide has underscored the importance of our work.

These conversations naturally led to the creation of a team: 30+ people as of 4/2023. The team has worked hard to capture current knowledge, to identify the places where suicide prevention might be possible, and then to create an initial set of community, clinical, research, and data science objectives.

Two main ideas are driving the initial set of aims. First, there is a mental health crisis impacting children, adolescents, and young adults. Second, we need to improve the mental health care of suicidal people. 

SPI is now operationalizing suicide prevention in high school, effective and scalable treatment of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents, crisis management in pediatric primary care and primary care internal medicine, and improved mental health treatment following a suicide attempt. 


Our Mission

Our long-term mission is to provide accessible alternatives to every person in the State of North Carolina who is contemplating suicide and to do our best to ensure that no more families have to face the tragedy of losing a loved one to suicide.

Our Vision

The SPI team unites researchers, clinicians, educators, policymakers, people of faith, those in marginalized communities, and lived experience advisors to rapidly deploy scalable evidence-informed primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention interventions for suicide.

Typically, the transition from science to society is slow. By removing obstacles to success, we will accelerate progress in the following domains to eliminate the pain and suffering associated with suicidality:

Prevention and Treatment: We will identify, adapt, or develop the most effective interventions to prevent and treat individuals with suicidality. We will rapidly expand the workforce of individuals trained in suicide detection, prevention, and treatment. We will ensure that every citizen of the State of North Carolina will have access to and be aware of resources to address suicide.

Research: At SPI, we apply novel and emerging methodologies and technologies to the understanding and prevention of suicide. Our ultimate goal is to rapidly and rigorously apply findings from science to refine and personalize detection and prevention of suicide. To learn more about ongoing projects, visit our projects page.

Public engagement: The work of SPI will adhere to co-production principles, engaging community stakeholders at each step of the way. Through public lectures, invited lectures, publications, media, and social media, we will translate often complex scientific results into readily understandable concepts for the public.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI): There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Different communities have different needs. DEI principles are woven into the fabric of SPI from the diversity of SPI team members to the communities benefitting from our work. Thorough and ongoing community consultation will ensure that all citizens of North Carolina benefit equally from our work.

Mentorship: SPI is dedicated to developing the next generation of scientists and clinicians focusing on suicide. From neuroscience to community research, our team members are dedicated to ensuring the longevity of our work.

Our State and beyond: SPI’s primary focus is to improve the lives of North Carolinians. Our work will serve as an exportable model for other regions around the country and the world.


Other sources of information about the Suicide Prevention Institute: 

UNC News: $25 million gift establishes the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute

UNC Genetics: Dr. Patrick Sullivan to Lead New UNC Suicide Prevention Institute

UNC Heels Care: UNC becomes home to new Suicide Prevention Institute

Forbes: University Of North Carolina Receives $25 Million Gift To Establish Suicide Prevention Institute

Philanthropy News Digest: UNC receives $25 million for suicide prevention institute


Donate to the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute here: Giving for Suicide Prevention 

William ’75 and Dana Starling have made a $25 million commitment to the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry to create the Suicide Prevention Institute. This gift will empower experts at UNC to offer cutting-edge care to patients in North Carolina while also supporting research to better understand the neurobiology of suicide and how it can be prevented.


Are you experiencing a crisis? Call or text 988.

Visit the SPI Resources Page to view other options for crisis help.