September 24, 2020

During the global pandemic, we’ve seen how important state public health infrastructure is. States have used real-time COVID-19 infection and death data to mobilize resources, contain infection, and expand treatment. As new research becomes available, states have adapted approaches and told the public how to stay safe. Unfortunately, state suicide prevention infrastructure lags far behind the current infectious disease response—despite suicide ranking as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and recent data indicating the pandemic has increased levels of distress and suicidal thoughts. Without a strong infrastructure, states have little chance of sustaining the coordinated, multifaceted suicide prevention effort that’s needed to reduce suicide across the country.

But we’ve made progress in the past 20 years. All states now have a state suicide prevention plan, and many have passed related legislation, including establishing a state suicide prevention coordinator or office. Yet, a broader suicide prevention infrastructure remains limited in many states. Too often, there is just one person—or no one—responsible for updating the state plan, supporting community prevention, improving and coordinating care, responding to media requests, and reporting to state officials and residents. These state suicide prevention coordinators are making heroic efforts, but they often lack the authority, support, and resources to do their job effectively.

So what does it take to establish infrastructure that can effectively support suicide prevention across each state? Last year, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) at EDC launched the first national State Suicide Prevention Infrastructure Recommendations. It lays out six areas in which states should strengthen their suicide prevention foundation. These include:

  • Officially authorize and resource a lead organization for state suicide prevention
  • Lead by staffing state efforts adequately
  • Partner across public and private sectors
  • Examine and improve data to inform and evaluate prevention efforts
  • Build a multifaceted suicide prevention program across all ages
  • Support and guide county and local efforts  

This Suicide Prevention Month, we invite you to:

  • Use these recommendations to help build a stronger suicide prevention infrastructure in your state
  • Use this checklist to see how your state measures up to the recommendations
  • Identify state leaders or key influencers you can share these recommendations with

Together, we can build a stronger foundation for lasting state and local efforts to reduce suicide across the country.

How can your professional association promote state suicide prevention infrastructure? How can you build these recommendations into your conversations with key influencers? We’d love to hear from you.

Ellyson Stout, a public health expert and senior manager, specializes in suicide prevention, implementation science, strategic planning, and health promotion with diverse populations. As director of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center at EDC, she leads a team of subject matter experts and resource designers providing support and building capacity to reduce suicide deaths and attempts across the United States.
Julie Ebin, a capacity-building and e-training specialist, is an expert in suicide prevention at EDC’s Suicide Prevention Resource Center. She specializes in behavioral health, state suicide prevention infrastructure, strategic planning, urban youth, and LGBT concerns.
Suicide, Violence, and Injury Prevention

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