Scientific Research

The research mission of JKBF is to explore the biology of suicide in order to identify biological risk factors and pathways involved in suicide behavior.

Suicide is complex, widespread, and multi-factorial. While it is evident that mental health conditions, trauma, and psychosocial factors are contributors to suicide risk, these issues alone do not always explain suicidal action. JKBF is interested in the exploration of biological factors that might operate independent of, or in addition to, previously recognized factors that influence suicide risk. The ultimate hope is to uncover avoidable exposures or modifiable mechanisms that will create new approaches for treatment and suicide prevention.

The scientific program of JKBF therefore focuses on identifying biological risk factors and pathways beyond the more traditionally-studied psychosocial and mental health concerns. JKBF supports efforts to uncover physiological catalysts that lead to suicide behaviors and to understand how these operate to create or to influence at-risk individuals. Based on early research in this arena, biological or non-psychosocial environmental risk factors of interest may include infectious agents, allergens, nutritional status, lifestyle factors, medications, traumatic brain injuries, and chemical exposures, among others. Biological mechanisms of interest include immune activation and inflammation, epigenetics, neurobiological signaling pathways, energy metabolism, oxidative stress, and the microbiome, as well as other areas of inquiry not conventionally prioritized in suicide research.

JKBF is dedicated to advancing our understanding of the biological contributors to suicide and fostering and connecting scientists—from biochemists to neuroscientists to epidemiologists–engaging in early stage research on these topics. Furthermore, through collaborations and community engagement, we hope to empower researchers, practitioners, and those who face the challenges of suicide to increase awareness and understanding of mind-body connections, resilience, and health.

Our blog articles on the science connecting biological, lifestyle, and environmental factors to mental health concerns and suicide risk and prevention.

Contributions from researchers in the field of suicide prevention that describe recent scientific findings related to biological factors in suicide.

Contributions from doctors and therapists in the mental health field that describe the biological underpinnings and factors related to their work.

Online articles from news sources and websites that highlight mind-body connections and biological and environmental factors in suicide and mental health.

The James K. Bernard Foundation convened a small think tank of scientists working in the suicide field on March 18, 2013 at the Center for Depression in Aurora, Colorado to advise the foundation regarding its interest in suicide research and prevention. This meeting was instrumental in helping the Board of Directors in its understanding of the state of suicide research, a role that biological factors may play in influencing suicide behavior, and relevant biological pathways and mechanisms that may be involved. Read More…