The Trust and the American Psychological Foundation (APF) are excited to announce the 2018 winner of the APF/The Trust Eric A. Harris, Ed.D., J.D. Grant which awards $5,000 to an early career psychologist or graduate student for use in their research or projects in the area of ethics and risk management.
Congratulations to Drew Porter, a graduate student at the University of Rochester in New York. The grant will help fund his research project, “Does Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) of Suicidal Thinking Have Iatrogenic Effects on Suicide Risk?”.
“I was pleasantly shocked,” says Porter.
The origins of his research project stem from his work as a mental health counselor after earning his undergraduate degree. Porter worked with teenagers and children who had injured themselves and were having suicidal thoughts.
“I didn’t feel like I knew nearly enough to help them,” says Porter, “I wanted to figure out what caused it, what maintained it, and what we could do to treat it.”
In preparation for graduate school, Porter began thinking about recent research projects on suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and how many use ecological momentary assessment (EMA). EMA involves repeated sampling of a subject’s current behaviors, experiences and thoughts in real time. Porter was concerned about the long-term effects if he ever used EMA in the future. If you’re asking someone to record their thoughts about suicide every day for weeks or even months, what impact does that have?
“I want to have confidence when I’m using it that it’s safe for my study participants,” says Porter.
Porter is currently working on his institutional review board application and hopes to submit that by August 2018. The next step is recruiting 100 participants between the ages of 18 and 19. The Eric A. Harris, Ed.D., J.D. Grant will be used to pay people for their four-week participation.
“A month-long research study can be quite burdensome on participants,” says Porter, who notes that participants will be asked to do daily reports for four weeks.
The 100 participants for his research project will be randomly divided into two groups. One group will document their suicidal thoughts for two weeks, the second group will focus on their fatigue. After that, all participants will be asked to report on both for two more weeks.
If people in the group that first focused on suicidal thinking report more frequent and severe suicidal thoughts in weeks three and four (compared to group 2), then, Porter says, it may be evidence that EMA has iatrogenic effects (i.e., EMA makes people more suicidal). Conversely, if group one reports less frequent and severe suicidal thinking than group two, this may suggest that EMA has therapeutic effects.
Porter expects to complete his analyses and have results by next summer.
As for his career goals, the Nashville native plans to apply for a professorship after graduation so he can teach future psychologists and continue to do meaningful research to help understand and prevent suicide.