Video: Notre Dame psychologist Theodore Beauchaine on using research and technology to prevent suicide

Author: Todd Boruff

“If one has heart disease, you don't wait until they have a first heart attack to intervene. It turns out that suicide prevention is similar to that,” said Theodore Beauchaine, the William K. Warren Foundation Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame.

Beauchaine is co-director of the Suicide Prevention Initiative—Research, Intervention, & Training (SPIRIT), located off campus at the Department of Psychology Clinical Studies Building. Along with co-director Brooke Ammerman, Beauchaine is helping to teach children and adolescents in the South Bend community to better regulate their emotions, with the goal of reducing risk factors for suicide. One promising tool he is researching is a pocket-sized music player with earbuds that stimulate the vagus nerve with a low amplitude electrical current.

“That current is taken up by the brain and it increases neural activity in brain regions that are associated with emotion dysregulation,” he said.

Technological innovations make it easier to reach poor urban and poor rural communities, which are hit hardest by suicide but lack the resources to travel to in-person mental health services. 

As these methods continue to develop, Beauchaine is hopeful for how the field of suicide prevention will advance.

“There are things that we can't foresee that we'll know in ten years that we don't know now, and that's exciting,” Beauchaine said. “That keeps me coming to work every day.”

You can also watch this video on YouTube.