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Teen Suicide Expert Guy Diamond Joins the Drexel College of Nursing and Health Professions

March 20, 2014

Guy Diamond, PhD, joined the Drexel College of Nursing and Health Professions’ Couple and Family Therapy Department as a full-time permanent faculty member at the start of the new year after serving in a visiting professor role during 2013. A renowned expert in adolescent suicide screening and depression treatment, he joins us at the pinnacle of a career filled with important publications, accolades, groundbreaking research, and an outstanding grant funding history.

Diamond comes to us from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one of his collaborators in developing a revolutionary standardized web-based adolescent suicide screening tool for primary care providers. The screening program, named “Behavioral Health Works,” a finalist for the Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation Innovation Award, is currently used in 40 Pennsylvania sites. Interest in the screening tool is increasing in other states and abroad.

Behavioral Health Works employs a seven-minute questionnaire that teens take on a computer as they wait for their visit with their healthcare provider. After a nurse or other staff member on site provides a brief orientation and helps the patient create login credentials, the teen completes the screening in private. Next, a nurse or staff member prints the screening report and adds it to the patient’s chart or Electronic Medical Record. Finally, the healthcare provider reviews the report with the patient and makes any necessary referrals based on the results. Both the report and the provider’s review may be billable.

Diamond explained that the screening tool aids practitioners in identifying risk for suicide because “things are more complicated than just depression. Adolescents can be experiencing problems that put them at risk, even if they are not depressed.” Because depression is episodic, the screening asks teens to identify past feelings of depression beyond the short timeframe asked by screening questionnaires used in the past.

The tool is also beneficial in that it helps providers gain a greater comfort level broaching the subject with adolescent patients, as well as increased knowledge. “It helps focus the conversation,” Diamond said. The survey results become a part of that individual’s record and are therefore accessible by the practitioner on a long-term basis.

In addition to developing the Behavioral Health Works screening tool, Diamond has a second area of research underway. He is a leader in a cutting edge treatment approach called Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT), which is the only manualized, empirically informed family therapy model specifically designed to target family and individual processes associated with adolescent suicide and depression.

Based on theories that adolescent suicide can be precipitated, exacerbated, or buffered against by the quality of family relationships, ABFT focuses on repairing and building up those interpersonal relationships in a way that makes them emotionally protective and secure-based. Diamond, along with Suzanne A. Levy and Gary M. Diamond, authored the definitive text on the approach, Attachment-Based Family Therapy for Depressed Adolescents, published by the American Psychological Association.

Diamond has just been selected by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) as the recipient of their Annual Research Award for his outstanding contribution to the field of suicide research. The award will be presented in May at their Annual Research Presentation and Lifesavers Dinner Gala in New York City.