By Emma Spring
What is ATLAS?:
The Aging, Transitions over the Lifespan and Suicide (ATLAS) Study is funded by the National Institute on Mental Health (1R01MH12819801) and is led by Drs. Briana Mezuk and Kara Zivin, along with colleagues at the Depression Center and Institute for Social Research at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The goal of ATLAS is to examine how major life transitions relate to suicide risk, with an emphasis on identifying modifiable determinants that can inform prevention efforts over the lifespan. The main activities of this project are to leverage existing population-based surveys to (1) examine the relationships between major life transitions across four domains (e.g., social relationships, work/school, health events/shocks, and moving/relocating) and the risk of suicidal behavior over the life span; and (2) examine how individual-level and macro-level contextual characteristics moderate suicide risk.
In the world of public health and mental health research, the vibrant stories and experiences have a profound impact on the work of each researcher. Behind the scholarly articles, data analyses, and discoveries lies a personal journey for every member of the Aging, Transitions over the Lifespan, and Suicide (ATLAS) Study at the University of Michigan, of which the writer of this article is a member. As we peel back the layers of their lives, we discover that researchers are not merely detached observers, studying statistics and trends from a distance. Instead, they are intimately entwined with the subjects they investigate, drawing from their own life’s narrative to enrich their research. In the following pages, we will delve into the lives of each member of this research team, exploring the turning points that shaped their paths, moments that ignited their passion, and the transformative power of embracing vulnerability and letting our own life-transition and mental health stories guide us towards a world of healing and progress.