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Comprehensive Approach to Suicide Prevention

There are multiple strategies for preventing suicide. Implementing a comprehensive, multi-tiered approach will be most effective, particularly in rural areas where services may not be available or are difficult to access.

A comprehensive approach to suicide prevention employs strategies on multiple levels of the Ecological Model. The Ecological Model addresses factors at the individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and policy level. For example, an organizational-level strategy may be incorporating suicide risk screening and intervention into standard practice in a primary care clinic, and an interpersonal-level strategy may be providing training to friends, family, and community members to identify warning signs and refer at-risk individuals for help.

A comprehensive approach to suicide prevention acknowledges the social determinants of health that impact health and well-being, such as income and poverty, availability of green space, access to healthcare services, and housing affordability. Suicide prevention programs addressing root causes may include interventions like economic development, open outdoor spaces, access to mental healthcare, housing stabilization policies, reducing provider shortages, and addressing social-emotional learning and parenting and family relationships.

Addressing multiple individual-level risk factors is also a component of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. For example, intervention models such as Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), historically developed to address at-risk substance use in non-treatment settings, have expanded to address depression, anxiety, and suicide risk. SBIRT can be implemented in primary care and school-based settings to offer services to at-risk individuals who do not have access to, or are not seeking, mental health or substance use disorder treatment for various reasons, including stigma.

The Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices, developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides information and tools for selecting multiple interventions as part of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. Strategies in the package range from upstream environmental and economic strategies to downstream suicide care strategies and are paired with specific suicide prevention approaches.