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Evaluation Measures for Suicide Prevention Programs

A key consideration when conducting any evaluation is deciding what will be measured. Because of the challenges highlighted in the previous section, many programs choose to evaluate process measures or outcome measures rather than only evaluating changes in the number of suicides or suicide attempts.

Process measures evaluate the implementation of a program and include data such as the number of program participants or participant satisfaction with the program. For rural suicide prevention programs, these might include assessing how successfully programs components were implemented, how many participants were engaged, and how wide the reach was in the community.

Outcome measures evaluate the desired outcome of the program. For rural suicide prevention programs this would include a decrease in the number of suicides and number of suicide attempts. While this is the overall goal of suicide prevention programs, these are difficult to measure for a number of reasons. Programs often use alternative outcome measures, including:

  • Improved identification of risk factors for suicide
  • Reduced access to lethal means
  • Improved access to mental healthcare
  • Increased use of screening tools
  • Increase in participants reporting strong social support

There are many possible process and outcome measures that could be used in a suicide prevention program evaluation. Programs should use measures that are most applicable to their program, align with the goals of the program, and are feasible.

Resources to Learn More

Commonly Used Measures for Evaluating Suicide Prevention Programs
Gives a detailed list of potential measures useful for evaluating suicide prevention programs.
Author(s): Acosta, J., Ramchand, R., Jaycox, L., Becker, A., & Eberhart, N.
Citation: Interventions to Prevent Suicide: A Literature Review to Guide Evaluation of California's Mental Health Prevention and Early Intervention Initiative
Organization(s): RAND Corporation
Date: 2012

Science of Improvement: Establishing Measures
Provides a wide variety of potential, specific process measures to be used in evaluation, based on different types of program activities.
Organization(s): Institute of Medicine