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Evaluation Challenges for Suicide Prevention Programs

Evaluating suicide prevention programs is particularly challenging because suicide is a relatively rare event and suicide attempts are not reported consistently. In addition, it is challenging to know whether any change in suicides or suicide attempts is a direct result of the program that is being evaluated.

In addition to deciding how to measure and collect data for an evaluation, rural suicide prevention programs often face challenges in how best to allocate time and resources for evaluations. First, programs frequently have multiple components, and each may require its own evaluation, on top of a general evaluation of the entire program. However, time and funding can limit the ability to conduct every individual evaluation in detail. Furthermore, because grant funding often requires programs to report on certain measures, some program components may take priority for evaluation over others.

As mentioned earlier, it can be challenging to determine the impact a suicide prevention program has on the number of suicide deaths or attempts in a community. It can be difficult to know exactly what to attribute positive mental health changes to. For example, the program may be part of a larger effort to see positive change in the community. Because of these challenges, it is important to measure multiple aspects of rural suicide prevention programs, beyond simply avoiding future suicides. Such aspects might include building resiliency, community connectedness, and coping skills.

Resources to Learn More

Challenges and Recommendations for Evaluating Suicide Prevention Programs
Document
Provides details on potential challenges to consider when evaluating a suicide prevention program, and offers recommendations to overcome these challenges.
Organization(s): Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Date: 2/2016