Community Connectedness for Suicide Prevention
Every community member has a role to play in preventing suicide. To help, community members can learn how to
identify warning signs, ask if someone is thinking about suicide, and connect those at risk with services and
resources. Rural programs can provide suicide prevention training, both to interested community members and
specific community groups. Examples of community groups who may be “gatekeepers” include law
enforcement, first responders, gun shop owners and retailers, motel staff, clergy, and staff of community-based
The following training programs are available to teach community members and gatekeepers to help
and support those struggling with mental health or thinking about suicide.
Mental Health First Aid, developed by the National
Council for Behavioral Health, covers a wide variety of topics including steps to take when someone is
suicidal. This course was designed to help laypeople recognize signs of mental distress and when and how to
refer individuals for help.
QPR, or Question, Persuade, Refer, is a 60-90 minute training which
can be delivered in-person or virtually. During QPR, trainees learn to identify the warning signs of suicide
and how to question, persuade, and refer someone for help.
safeTALK is a four-hour program during
which trainees learn to recognize warning signs, engage someone who is at risk, and connect them to care or
ASIST, or Applied Suicide Intervention
Skills Training, is a two-day workshop with instruction on how to deliver a skilled intervention and develop
a safety plan.
Fostering a sense of community
connectedness can be a valuable tool and protective factor in preventing suicide and helping community
members cope after a suicide. Community connectedness can be fostered through interactions with friends, family,
neighbors, peer groups, and community organizations.
Connectedness initiatives can include support groups, community-wide events, mentoring, and buddy programs like
Big Brothers Big Sisters. These programs can be intergenerational or designed for specific sub-groups such as
LGBTQ+ youth, students, veterans, older adults, or suicide loss survivors (someone who has lost a loved one to
suicide). For example, community connectedness programs for older adults could include expanding volunteer
opportunities to increase social interaction and instill a sense of purpose, worth, and accomplishment while
also giving back to the community. For youth, school districts can partner elementary students with high school
students so they become connected with someone outside of their family who can serve as a role model and source
Building upon the strength of rural communities, community connectedness programs can create networks of support
for people who may have suicidal ideation or have lost someone to suicide. They may also help in addressing social isolation, a public health issue and risk
factor for suicide, though it can be hard to reach those who choose to remain isolated.
Existing community networks can identify and support individuals who are experiencing suicide ideation or loss.
Instead of establishing new partnerships, rural programs can seek to leverage ones that are already established.
For example, faith-based organizations can foster community support through a shared belief system, and they are
a proven tool to connect individuals who face isolation. Mental health, healthcare, and social service
organizations can also conduct outreach and provide services in central and commonly visited locations within
communities to connect with the most isolated individuals. Communities should review their data on mental health
and suicide to inform the development or leveraging of existing partnerships and the development of a
community-wide gatekeeper training plan.
Program Clearinghouse Examples
Resources to Learn More
Connectedness for Trauma and Suicide Prevention: Needs and Opportunities to Address Social Isolation in a
Offers a webinar with panelists discussing the importance of community connectedness to prevent suicide and
trauma during a public health emergency. Focus is on populations who experience social isolation and are at risk
of suicide such as the elderly, youth, veterans, and LBGTQ groups. Includes a list of resources addressing
social isolation and suicide prevention.
Organization(s): Prevention Institute
The Star Collection
Features free e-books for American Indian/Alaska Native youth to celebrate their culture, foster connectedness,
and support positive relationships.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)