January 30, 2023
Shawna Jones with Laurie Rosenblum

My passion for suicide prevention was sparked in response to tragedy when several youth in my town took their lives within just a few months. The community formed a committee to address the issue. We brought in presenters to discuss mental health and held an awareness walk, but little else was done. Then the crisis passed, and the community moved on to other issues that were new ‘hot topics.’

Often, local suicide prevention efforts can be fueled by tragedies but lack long-term focus. How do we avoid this pitfall in suicide prevention efforts? This question persists as recent CDC data show significant increases in suicide rates among U.S. populations such as youth and adult men, and suicide remains the 12th leading cause of death in the United States.

Suicide is a complex issue that rarely occurs because of just one life event. There are usually multiple risk factors for suicide that interplay in an individual’s life. These risk factors require taking a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. In this approach, multiple suicide prevention strategies are brought together to reduce the overall risk factors in the community and to provide effective treatment and support to those already impacted by suicide. Developing and maintaining the multiple strategies that are key to a comprehensive approach requires the involvement and collaboration of community partners who play unique roles in implementing and supporting the rollout of the different strategies. For example, K–12 schools can invest in youth life skills development, community service organizations can learn to respond to clients’ suicide warning signs, and mental health providers can provide effective treatment to those struggling with suicidal thoughts or impacted by the loss of a loved one to suicide.

But developing and maintaining community engagement in a comprehensive approach often remains difficult. Resources such as the Action Alliance’s Transforming Communities Report and CDC’s Suicide Prevention Resource for Action provide valuable recommendations for what communities should invest in to prevent suicide. However, these recommendations lack concrete how-to steps for developing a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. Through funding from the CDC and Safe States Alliance, EDC has developed the Community-Led Suicide Prevention (CLSP) Toolkit, designed to help translate the high-level recommendations of these resources into real-world actions.

CLSP is a free online resource that any community (big or small, rural or urban) can use to guide its efforts. The evidence-informed toolkit offers clear steps for developing local capacity necessary for comprehensive suicide prevention strategies. Communities can use this toolkit to support not just the development of suicide prevention strategies but also the capacity to sustain those efforts over time. The toolkit provides guidance for forming and strengthening suicide prevention coalitions, conducting data-driven strategic planning, choosing prevention strategies that are a good local fit, and effectively communicating with the public on suicide prevention. Through examples, real-world stories, and clear steps, the toolkit outlines a process your community can use to help partners collaborate effectively and sustainably across their different roles in comprehensive suicide prevention.

Visit communitysuicideprevention.org to access the toolkit and develop evidence-informed, sustainable suicide prevention in your community.

Shawna Hite-Jones, senior manager of prevention initiatives, is dedicated to suicide prevention, mental health promotion, and community empowerment. She develops resources and learning opportunities that support communities in implementing suicide prevention efforts.
 Laurie Rosenblum is an EDC research associate and writer on suicide prevention and other mental health issues with a commitment to developing user-friendly resources for a wide range of audiences.
Suicide, Violence, and Injury Prevention

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