How the Action Alliance Is Advancing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention

National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention with Families for Depression Awareness

It’s Suicide Prevention Month. What is happening with national suicide prevention efforts?

The steady increase in suicide rates in the U.S. since 1999 underscores the need for coordinated and comprehensive prevention efforts involving government agencies, communities, organizations, families, and individuals. This type of approach requires commitment and buy-in from partners and stakeholders across various settings and sectors in order to effectively coordinate and implement suicide prevention efforts across communities, states, and nationwide.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) is the public-private partnership focused on advancing national suicide prevention efforts. On September 10, 2012 the Action Alliance, along with then-U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, released the revised National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP), which emphasizes the role every American can play in protecting their friends, family members, and colleagues from suicide. It also provides guidance for schools, businesses, health systems, clinicians, and many other sectors, taking into account nearly a decade of research and other advancements in the field since the previous strategy was published. The NSSP features 13 goals and 60 objectives which when followed will lead to a nation free from suicide.

The Action Alliance is focused on advancing three major priorities that were chosen because of their potential to produce the systems-level change necessary to substantially lower the burden of suicide in our nation and to promote the norm of providing social support and connectedness for vulnerable individuals.

Priority 1: Changing the conversation around suicide
The goal of this priority is to change the national narratives around suicide and suicide prevention to ones that promote hope, connectedness, social support, resilience, treatment, and recovery. This priority is focused on fundamentally transforming attitudes and behaviors relating to suicide and suicide prevention.

The Action Alliance engages and leverages three key audiences – news reporters, suicide prevention messengers, and entertainment industry representatives – who play an important role in educating about, and elevating awareness of, suicide and suicide prevention to the public. Through their messaging, news reporters (TV, print, radio, and digital), suicide prevention messengers (such as government agency officials, advocates, first responders, suicide prevention professionals, faith leaders, suicide attempt survivors, family members or friends who lost a love one to suicide), and entertainment industry representatives have the ability to transform the broader social narrative related to suicide and suicide prevention.

Two key resources aimed to help change the national narrative include

Priority 2: Transforming health care delivery for individuals at risk for suicide
This priority is focused on scaling up implementation of Zero Suicide in health care, improving follow-up care, training providers, improving financing of suicide care, and ensuring care is available during a crisis and treat individuals at risk for suicide. We engage key stakeholders to improve suicide prevention in our nation’s health care systems.

To advance this priority, the Action Alliance is

  • Promoting the adoption of “zero suicides” as an organizing goal for clinical systems—behavioral health and primary care— by supporting efforts to transform suicide care through leadership, policies, practices, and outcome measurements. The Action Alliance, in collaboration with partner organizations, launched the Zero Suicide initiative, which includes a Zero Suicide website and toolkit, expert faculty members, and technical assistance from the Suicide Prevention Resource. The Action Alliance continues to support the Zero Suicide initiative by expanding to more organizations and supporting efforts to evaluate outcomes.
  • Exploring ways to expand the transformation of health care systems by scaling up implementation of best practices for suicide care in emergency departments.
  • Evaluating ways to increase implementation of best practices and protocols for inpatient psychiatric units to improve care transitions to outpatient and community services for all patients at risk for suicide.

Priority 3: Transforming community-based suicide prevention
This priority is focused on supporting the development of comprehensive, integrated, community-based suicide prevention resources for states and communities, and improving the effectiveness of existing community suicide prevention efforts.

To advance community-based suicide prevention, the Action Alliance is identifying and disseminating a core set of elements/strategic framework for comprehensive community-based suicide prevention to states and communities, including but not limited to:

  • Reviewing the literature and conducting an environmental scan about community-based approaches to suicide prevention and other prevention areas that have been successful in (a) helping community groups plan and implement efforts and (b) reducing the burden of death and disease at the community level
  • Exploring and promoting existing resources for advancing community prevention efforts (specific and non-specific to suicide)
  • Identifying the key process, infrastructure, and programmatic elements of a comprehensive community-based approach for suicide
  • Maintaining a focus on burden reduction, i.e., suicide is an urgent problem for which we need to focus on the best available evidence to save lives.

Learn more about the Action Alliance.

Your Turn

  • Which of the Action Alliance’s approaches do you think is most effective and why?
  • What do you do in your work or community in support of suicide prevention?

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