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Importance of Community Partnerships in Successful Suicide Prevention Programs

Creating and building strong rural partnerships is fundamental to the success of a suicide prevention program. Community partners can assist with planning and strategy, staffing, community education, implementation, evaluation, funding, and public relations. Many communities formalize partnerships by forming suicide prevention coalitions that meet regularly to create and implement local suicide prevention plans.

Potential partners for suicide prevention programs can include:

  • Health and mental health providers
  • Healthcare systems, hospitals, and clinics
  • Primary and secondary (K-12) schools
  • Colleges and universities
  • Social service agencies
  • Community-based organizations
  • Businesses and local chambers of commerce
  • Faith-based communities
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • First responders
  • Local public health and mental health agencies
  • State public health and mental health agencies
  • Local American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapters
  • Pharmacies
  • Medical examiners or coroners
  • News media
  • Individuals with lived experience
  • Gun shop owners and gun retailers
  • Farming and agricultural groups

Each partner has a unique role in supporting suicide prevention efforts. For example, medical examiners and coroners can access real-time local data on suicide that coalitions can use to implement data-driven efforts. Some medical examiner and coroners' offices have begun implementing innovative site investigation and suicide death review protocols to inform local suicide prevention in their communities.

Partners may also help notify, investigate, and respond to a potential suicide cluster. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a suicide cluster as “a group of suicides or suicide attempts [that] occur closer together in time, space, or both than would normally be expected in a community.” The CDC provides step-by-step guidance for community assessment and investigation of a suicide cluster and guidance for community response to a suicide cluster. The guidance provides action steps for engaging partners in a committee to investigate and respond.

Partners such as gun shop owners, gun retailers, and pharmacists can contribute to creating safe environments and reducing access to lethal means among those at risk of suicide. These partners can provide educational material to customers addressing topics such as risk factors and warning signs of suicide and safe storage of firearms and medications. The New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition and Colorado Gun Shop Project have engaged gun owning communities in their suicide prevention efforts.

Resources to Learn More

CDC Guidance for Community Assessment and Investigation of Suspected Suicide Clusters, United States, 2024
A step-by-step guide for local practitioners to assess and investigate a suspected suicide cluster. Describes the approaches lead agencies can take, including working with partners to develop a committee and conduct a formal assessment.
Author(s): Trinh, E., Ivey-Stephenson, A.Z., Ballesteros, M.F., et al.
Citation: MMWR Suppl, 73(2), 8-16
Date: 02/2024

CDC Guidance for Community Response to Suicide Clusters, United States, 2024
A step-by-step guide for local practitioners to respond to a suspected suicide cluster. Describes the approaches lead agencies can take, including developing a response plan and engaging partners in a committee to provide a direct response.
Author(s): Ivey-Stephenson, A.Z., Ballesteros, M.F., Trinh, E., et al.
Citation: MMWR Suppl, 73(2), 17-26
Date: 02/2024

Preventing Suicide: A Community Engagement Toolkit
A step-by-step guide for community organizers planning to introduce suicide prevention activities at the grassroots level. Includes assistance on initial preparation, developing an action plan, working with local media, and monitoring and evaluating activities. Provides additional resources for managing suicide prevention activities.
Organization(s): World Health Organization (WHO)
Date: 6/2019

Suicide Prevention Coalitions Guide
Offers a practical approach to creating suicide prevention coalitions representative of an entire community. Covers establishing a common purpose, recruitment of members, developing a management plan, and engaging members in activities.
Organization(s): The California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA)
Date: 6/2019