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Navigating the institutional review board system to conduct suicide research

Waliski A, Townsend J, Castro MI, Doan R, Kirchner JE, Owen RR, Connor KR. Navigating the institutional review board system to conduct suicide research. Annals of public health and research. 2015 Nov 27; 2(4):1028.

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Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In order to establish evidence-based best practices for suicide prevention, knowledge of suicide's etiology and effective prevention measures is crucial. However, Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for studies involving suicidal participants may be difficult to obtain for a study that involves participants who may be deemed vulnerable. Furthermore, the detailed process of compliance with federally mandated regulations may seem daunting to a first-time investigator when submitting a study for IRB approval. This article describes the process of obtaining Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for a proposed study of Veterans who experienced either a non-fatal suicide attempt or serious suicidal ideations involving a firearm, as well as strategies for ensuring success. A collaborative process involving IRB administrators, IRB members and study investigators resulted in study approval of a protocol design that met the study's objectives, educated the IRB on a subject population they were unfamiliar about, and safe-guarded Veteran confidentiality and safety.

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