Janet Ann York, PhD, PMHCNS-BC, FAAN
2019 Award for Excellence in Research

Janet Ann YorkJanet Ann York is always thinking about her next research opportunity – even as she approaches retirement. “I keep saying this is my last big thing, but I enjoy continuing to think about research and what is current,” she explains. “I was in Hawaii on vacation and people asked if I had a relaxing trip. We wrote an action statement for youth suicide prevention, and it was a great vacation!” For decades, Janet has diligently applied her research to clinical work, trainings, and advocacy to ensure that the standards of care for psychiatric-mental health nursing remain current. Her work with youth suicide prevention and community interventions earned her this year’s APNA Award for Excellence in Research.

At a Glance
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
Youth suicide prevention; research

Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“You can’t get discouraged. There is always something you can learn and use.”

How She Connects:
“To make real connections, we have to really care about who people are – seeing them as a person and not a data point.”

After working on a life stress scale for children with depression, Janet was inspired to research youth suicide prevention. She conducted a psychological autopsy of youth who suicided by interviewing those closest to the individual – parents, siblings, and friends. “I think my gift is that I can survive these stories,” Janet says of her experience. “It is very hard work, and every story is so sad, but I felt as a nurse that I could really help…To make real connections, we have to really care about who people are – seeing them as a person and not a data point.” Julie Carbray, Janet’s reference, says, “Dr. York has dedicated her life’s work to the study of suicide…This can be a difficult turf to navigate and is further complicated by the difficult subject matter. Her impressive record becomes even more remarkable when one considers the obstacles to this research that she has overcome.”

Janet was instrumental in the development of a program to incorporate suicide prevention strategies into school settings. “Funded by Ronald McDonald House Charities, we worked with 74 out of 75 Chicago schools on suicide prevention,” she says. “We developed an exemplary intervention with a CD ROM – innovative at the time – and sent it to every high school in the country.” But to Janet, the success of the program wasn’t just its wide scope of adoption – it was also in the interactions she had with individuals while putting together the materials. “Along the way, I met so many survivors. We would go to Washington, and we would bring shoes of people who died by suicide. It was great to see the grassroot efforts and see what we can do when we work together with consumers.”

Janet’s research has also impacted women with substance use disorders navigating the court system in Miami. “There was a policy report that women with substance use disorders did not complete court-ordered treatment because they didn’t have access to childcare,” she says. “We received grants to do developmental evaluations and help these women develop family plans…People asked how we knew how to do this – I said because I’m a nurse!” The programs Janet helped to implement strengthened the community, provided resources for these women and eventually became a model for other court systems.

A diligent mentor, Janet encourages psychiatric-mental health nurses to get involved in research and publish their work. “I feel like we have a duty to mentor and a commitment to pass on to the next generation,” she says. Even in her own research, Janet reaches out to interdisciplinary colleagues and individuals impacted by suicide to foster a truly collaborative scholarly environment. Joy Lauerer, her nominator, praises this spirit of collegiality and mentorship, saying, “Janet has focused on the implementation of evidence-based interventions and collaboration with survivors and consumers…Mentoring colleagues and students has been a personal priority.”

Janet encourages future psychiatric-mental health nurse researchers to dedicate themselves to lifelong learning – even learning from grant proposals that do not receive funding. “There’s lots of benefits to the whole process. We used to say write five [proposals], get one,” she says. “You can’t get discouraged. There is always something you can learn and use.” We look forward to celebrating Janet’s dedication to research at the APNA 33rd Annual Conference.

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The American Psychiatric Nurses Association is accredited with distinction as a provider of nursing continuing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.