When senior Emily Carbonara started a summer internship at Exeter Hospital in Exeter, New Hampshire, she didn’t know it would launch her into research on youth suicide prevention in the state.
What began as a community health needs assessment turned into a yearlong project that brings youth suicide in New Hampshire into the spotlight. Carbonara has been researching what factors increase vulnerability to suicidal intentions among the state’s youth as a means to create more appropriately targeted intervention programs.
“I got immersed in this data that tells a very compelling story,” says Carbonara.
“I looked at what can be a protective factor against suicide and found that the most significant factor is feeling that you matter to your community and to other people.”
For instance, 37 percent of survey respondents who have been physically abused by a significant other have reported that they've seriously considered suicide. Wanting to know more, Carbonara dug deeper into the data and discovered that more females than males reported having suicidal thoughts or intentions. Then she overlapped data on substance abuse and found that opioid use was the most significant factor affecting one’s vulnerability to suicidal thoughts.
What else did the data reveal?
“I looked at what can be a protective factor against suicide and found that the most significant factor is feeling that you matter to your community and to other people,” Carbonara says. “This project ultimately went in a public health direction rather than a clinical one. It asks the question ‘How can the community become a support system for youth?’”
Carbonara’s research, which she conducted alongside health management and policy associate professor Semra Aytur, will eventually be published. In the meantime, she’ll graduate in May and start a job at BerryDunn Consultants in Portland, Maine, in a position usually reserved for a master’s-prepared graduate. There, she’ll have the opportunity to work on needs assessment projects for health systems throughout New England and beyond.
“I feel very fortunate,” she says. “UNH has done so much to help me prepare for my career beyond college.”
Hear more health-related research findings during the College of Health and Human Services Grimes Award Competition, Friday, April 21, 1:30 – 4 p.m. in Pettee Hall rooms G10 and 106.