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Vermont Suicide Prevention Symposium

David Rettew, MD (he/him)

David Rettew, MD is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine. He also is the Medical Director of the Child, Adolescent and Family Division of the Vermont Department of Mental Health.

He received his undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and then earned his medical degree at the University of Vermont followed by adult and child psychiatry training at Harvard Medical School within the Massachusetts General and McLean Hospital program. 

Dr. Rettew divides his time between clinical, teaching and research activities. He has over 100 published journal articles, chapters, and scientific abstracts on a variety of child mental health topics. 

He recently published his second book Parenting Made Complicated: What Science Really Knows about the Greatest Debates of Early Childhood. He also writes a blog for Psychology Today called, “The ABCs of Child Psychiatry” that has been viewed over a million times. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook @PediPsych.  Dr. Rettew is married and the father of three children.

2021 Presentation

Protective Factors in Suicide Prevention: Why It’s Important to Understand the Good Stuff

This presentation will take a positive psychiatry perspective on suicide prevention and describe how qualities such as connectedness, optimism, and self-efficacy can help reduce suicidality.

Presentation Summary:

A great deal of suicide prevention work is appropriately focused on identifying and addressing risk factors such as depression and trauma. While these efforts are certainly worthwhile, it is important to remember that the absence of negative factors in someone’s life does not necessarily imply the presence of positive elements that research has demonstrated can protect people from suicidal thoughts and actions. This presentation will describe some of these positive qualities such as connectedness, optimism, and self-efficacy, and show how they are involved in the development of resilience. Data will be shown from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey that examines the relations between suicidality and variables related to these domains. Findings from other studies will be shown briefly and the emerging field of positive psychiatry will be discussed. After the evidence for this perspective is outlined, strategies for how to cultivate these qualities will be described that can help parents, mental health professionals, and loved ones create an environment that is more resistant to suicidal thoughts and actions from taking hold in the first place and provide additional intervention possibilities for those already struggling with suicidality.

Presentation Objectives:

As a result of attending this presentation, attendees will: 

  • Describe positive qualities that protect individuals from suicidal thoughts and behaviors. 
  • Provide evidence that establishes the important roles these factors play in suicide prevention. 
  • Outline practical steps that can be taken to bring and nurture these positive factors into someone’s life.
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