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Rural Health Information Hub

Health Equity Considerations for Suicide Prevention Programs

When developing a suicide prevention program in a rural community, it is important to listen to and involve community members as well as healthcare providers and other collaborators. Community listening sessions can help programs to better understand community members' needs, assets, and experiences related to economic instability, limited access to quality health and mental health care, substandard housing, limited educational attainment, unemployment, and poverty. These social determinants of health play a large role in suicide risk and health equity.

Listening sessions often highlight the diversity of needs within a rural population and can help guide a multi-tiered intervention approach. For example, upstream prevention efforts can build and strengthen community infrastructure, repair generational family trauma, and strengthen positive youth development (for example, through mentoring like Big Brothers Big Sisters programs or social ecological mentoring. Social and wraparound services can support those who need mental health services. Stigma, disbelief in, and negative associations with mental health care can be countered by providing accurate information about mental health and social services programs.

Suicide prevention programs should seek to advance behavioral health equity, which means ensuring access to quality care. Programs should be developed and tailored for specific populations of interest. For example, it is important to consider whether the rural suicide prevention program is designed for an entire community or a specific population that is disproportionally impacted, such as veterans, people who identify as LGBTQI+, farmers, older adults, American Indians/Alaskan Natives, or youth. Involving community members and collaborators from these groups when developing program content and messages will help ensure the program is culturally appropriate and meets their needs.

Resources to Learn More

Module 3: Bringing Equity to Suicide Prevention: How Can We Support Communities at Elevated Risk of Suicide?
Provides information on community-driven strategies that include the use of data when designing equitable suicide prevention programs. Includes links to tools and resources useful for gathering data and identifying interventions.
Organization: Prevention Institute