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Accessing Data on Suicide

Rural communities should access and use data on suicide to develop programs and direct resources for suicide prevention. Reviewing data will help identify regions and groups at higher risk of suicide. Data query tools from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are publicly available for this purpose and do not require an expert in data analysis.

Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS)

The Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) is an interactive database with information on suicides as well as unintentional drug overdoses and deaths related to homicide and legal intervention. The point and click system allows for filtering by state, year, method, age, race, ethnicity, gender, and urban/rural designation. You can output the data by year, age, gender, and race which allows you to look at multiple data points and data over time. WISQARS also provides data visualization, state and national maps, leading causes of death tables, non-fatal injury, and cost of injury reports.

Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER)

The Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) tool contains mortality data that is searchable by many causes of death. For suicide data, WONDER allows multiple options for searching, such as by county and by method of suicide using ICD-10 codes (X60-X84). Users can also access the WONDER portal for “multiple causes of death” to explore contributing causes of opioid overdose deaths by searching for “opioid-related contributing causes of overdose death.”

Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) includes data from a representative sample of high school students and can be searched by risk behaviors and filtered by state, municipality, grade, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Specific to suicide, there is information on feelings of sadness and hopelessness, thoughts about suicide, suicide plans (in some states), reported suicide attempts, and suicide attempts that require medical attention. The YRBS query tool enables comparisons and identification of significant differences.

One limitation of national data is the lag time between data collection and its availability for analysis. To overcome this challenge, some areas of the U.S., including Washington County, Oregon, have begun implementing a new model of local data collection and review. This model includes the collection of comprehensive data available 48 hours after a suicide and the review of up to five suicides on a quarterly basis by a committee of stakeholders to discuss risk and protective factors, how the suicide could have been prevented, and what measures can and should be put into place in the community. This model has the ability to identify unique, community-specific warning signs such as dropping pets off at animal shelters and data-driven solutions such as training animal shelter staff in suicide prevention.