Protective Factors for Suicide
Rural communities have numerous strengths and assets that are protective factors and contribute to reducing
suicide risk. Protective factors rural areas can
focus on include social connections, access to effective healthcare, and coping and problem-solving skills.
Rural communities are tight-knit. These social connections to friends, family, and community members can protect against suicide. Many rural families have
lived in the community for generations, and multi-generational families can create a solid foundation for
support and connectedness. Consequently, rural residents reach out to neighbors for support in difficult times,
like the loss of a loved one. Drawing upon this strength while reducing the negative impacts of stigma on mental
health is critical to reducing risk of suicide in rural communities.
Access to Effective Healthcare
Access to effective healthcare services is important for identifying and addressing suicide risk. Effective care
- Provided at multiple levels
- Addresses physical and mental health
- Includes pathways for coordination, referral, and follow-up
To ensure access to effective care, rural areas may integrate behavioral healthcare and
suicide prevention into primary care settings and ensure providers have the information, training, and resources
they need to assist individuals who are at risk of suicide with system and care navigation and keep them safe.
Telehealth can facilitate access to these services and reduce travel barriers
for rural residents. Schools can also serve as a setting for youth to access healthcare services, including
screening and brief intervention in school-based health or mental health clinics. A positive and supportive
relationship between the patient and a healthcare provider is important for retention in care, routine
monitoring of suicide risk, and positive and improved patient outcomes. A supportive healthcare provider can
work collaboratively with a patient, their family, and other community providers who treat the patient to
provide coordinated care and most effectively address suicidal thoughts and behaviors and other related
Coping and Problem Solving Skills
Having basic life skills that promote
resiliency — including the ability to problem solve, cope, and adapt to change — is a
factor for suicide. In rural areas, social determinants such
as poverty, employment status, and access to safe and healthy housing are also barriers to developing coping and
For rural adults, programs that focus on basic life and job skills can enhance self-esteem and coping skills.
This can include job support, such as tips for interviewing and attire. Other strategies include activities like
meditation, interacting with nature, arts and crafts, and skills learned through clinical interventions such as
therapy. Programs can also
encourage volunteer opportunities, mentorship, and engaging in community improvement projects to help build
self-esteem and purpose.
For rural youth and families, social-emotional learning programs like Youth
Aware of Mental Health Program, PAX Good Behavior Game, and Sources of Strength are evidence-based programs that have been
shown to increase resilience and improve problem-solving skills. Programs that focus on teaching effective
parenting skills, emotional self-regulation, and strengthening family cohesiveness have also been shown to
reduce suicide risk factors.
Resources to Learn More
General Violence Prevention:
Highlights both risk factors and protective factors for violence and the associated risks of violence by using
actors on stage to demonstrate how people are impacted in positive and negative ways.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)