Westborough researcher on a mission to prevent suicide

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By Peg Lopata, Contributing Writer

Westborough researcher on a mission to prevent suicide
Edwin Boudreaux is a researcher studying suicide and suicide prevention.

WESTBOROUGH – Ed Boudreaux is a paradox.  

He’s all about making connections and living life with joy, love and connection. But his work – he’s executive vice chair for research, Department of Emergency Medicine at UMass Medical School – is all about helping those who feel they have none of that.  A childhood in Cajun country, Louisiana, may be the explanation. 

“We love to connect,” explains this father of two kids and two cats. “The Cajuns are community-oriented people. We watch out for one another.”

The community he’s been especially connecting with, besides those in Westborough, his family and friends, is the community-at-large, especially those most in need.  

Researcher learns from individuals experiencing mental illness

To solve the riddles of very troubled people, Boudreaux has made it his life’s work to understand the human mind.  

Some people’s problems seem insurmountable, but Boudreaux doesn’t want them to see suicide as their only solution. He learned early in his career that assessing one’s risk for suicide could help prevent this tragedy. Now his life’s work focuses on preventing suicide.  

“The more I work in this field, the more committed I’ve become to reducing suicide rates because so many people tell me their personal stories of struggling with suicide or with the suicide of someone they loved,” Boudreaux says.

That connection to people who are struggling gives Boudreaux purpose and meaning for his own life.  

Suicide prevention work provides fulfillment

Boudreaux finds his work both intellectually and emotionally fulfilling.  

It is the reason he’s driven to prevent suicides. His professional community has noted his success. In 2021 Boudreaux was chosen as Researcher of the Year by the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. The award was one of the most rewarding moments in Boudreaux’s career so far. It honors the many years he’s spent researching why people take their own lives and how to prevent suicide.

“We’ve discovered that even small changes in how we treat patients can make a huge difference,” explains Boudreaux. “A few simple questions in screening, for example, can help us detect suicide risk that is typically not detected.  

“It’s not true that most people who want to kill themselves will hide it, so asking questions helps,” he continues. “We’ve also learned that much good can be done in a relatively short period of time.”

Researcher finds joy in life

Despite the fact that Boudreaux aims to help those who are experiencing extreme psychological pain, feel hopeless and trapped, he’s an upbeat man.

He funnels his compassion into this very serious line of work but knows how to have a good time. For him, that means hanging out with his family, brewing beer, gardening and bird watching.  

His guiding philosophy for life?  Love life; live love. And, of course, let the good times roll.