Dr. David Shaffer, an influential pioneer and renowned expert in the field of child and teenage suicide, passed away at the age of 87. His pioneering research into the causes, prevention, and treatment of adolescent suicide had a profound impact on the way mental health professionals approach this issue.
Dr. Shaffer was born in 1932 in Brooklyn, New York and was raised by Bernard and Jenny Shaffer, both of whom immigrated to the United States from Russia. After graduating from Brooklyn College, Dr. Shaffer attended the University of Iowa and earned his doctorate degree in clinical psychology in 1964.
Throughout his career, Dr. Shaffer had an unwavering commitment to research and clinical work that empowered those struggling with the agony of suicide and mental illness. His work, which focused on the development of sensitive assessment tools, was instrumental in helping us understand the minds and motivations of individuals at risk for suicide. He also made strides in evaluating the effectiveness of school-based suicide prevention programs.
Dr. Shaffer’s groundbreaking research on child and teenage suicide paved the way for seminal publications, such as the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment, the Columbia Suicide History Form, and Risk for Suicide: A Guide for Assessment. His work built the foundation for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines on adolescent suicide prevention and the New York State Office of Mental Health’s guideline for suicide assessment and prevention.
Further to his research, Dr. Shaffer was an ardent advocate for children’s mental health and well-being. He served as the chair the Board of Directors of the National Mental Health Association, National Mental Health Advisory Council, and Suicide Prevention Action Network USA.
In 2006, Dr. Shaffer was honored with the Alfred L. Freidman award for outstanding contributions to the field of adolescent suicide prevention. In addition, he was honored with the Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Suicide Prevention Award by the American Association of Suicidology, the Distinguished Cluster of Merit Service Award from the New York State Office of Mental Health, and the Research Award from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Dr. Shaffer served the medical community for more than 50 years with distinction and compassion, and his legacy will continue to make an indent on the field of child and teenage suicide research, prevention, and treatment.