National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Improving Mental Health
19 October 2023
With suicide being the 12th leading cause of death in the United States across demographics, it has a significant and troubling death toll. Over 49,000 individuals lost their lives to suicide in 2022, indicating a 2.6% increase from 2021. That’s approximately 1 death every 11 minutes, the highest in recorded history.
To address the prevalence of suicide in the United States and across the world, the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention was created as a guide.
Let’s explore what its main objectives and strategies are, and how community efforts can aid suicide prevention.
What Is the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention?
The National Strategy for Suicide Prevention is a result of the combined effort of organizations and individuals. It involves the efforts of clinicians, researchers, advocates, and survivors who are working to reduce suicide rates across the world.
The Strategy is designed to act as a catalyst for social change and address the root causes of suicide. This involves developing, guiding, and promoting efforts to enhance the judicial, healthcare, and educational systems.
The Strategy is working on modifying the existing social infrastructure while encouraging services and programs that increase public awareness and accessibility to support systems.
Communities and organizations can use its framework to guide their efforts across different sectors.
The Strategy outlines eleven main objectives:
- Acknowledging suicide as a preventable public health problem and raising awareness
- Developing a support system to improve intervention and support
- Reducing the stigma associated with mental health, substance abuse, and suicide to make support systems more inclusive and effective
- Enhancing suicide prevention efforts by implementing the proper community-based programs
- Reducing access to lethal methods of self-harm
- Raising awareness about at-risk behavior to ensure that people receive timely intervention and support
- Encouraging effective professional and clinical practices
- Improving access to mental health and substance abuse services for all communities
- Advocating for better representation, reporting, and portrayal in entertainment and news media to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and substance abuse issues
- Encouraging research on suicide and suicide prevention for evidence-based, data-driven campaigns
- Improving and expanding surveillance systems to identify and garner support for at-risk individuals
The general idea is to inculcate holistic suicide prevention measures. This involves encouraging conversations surrounding mental health and suicide, thereby destigmatizing the topic.
This encourages at-risk people to find and receive help as it normalizes suicide as a public health concern for different communities.
It also involves legal provisions to improve accessibility and reduce disparities that may contribute to growing suicide rates. This facilitates research that helps identify risk factors and evidence-based interventions to improve outcomes.
The measures outlined in the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention are thus designed with these goals in mind and offer guidance on how they can be achieved successfully.
Why is the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention Important: Mitigating Suicide Through Community Action
If the underlying causes of suicide are to be uprooted, community action is necessary across all spheres.
Suicide is a multi-faceted issue. It is often caused by a severe decline in mental health. This is typically the result of negative conditions such as:
- Economic difficulties such as unemployment and debt
- Lack of basic resources due to poverty
- Lack of access to affordable housing
- Serious health conditions
- Poor access to mental and physical healthcare
- Experiences of violence or assault
Considered “social determinants of health,” these conditions can cause an individual to feel helpless or despondent. Without a support system in place, a person may see self-inflicted death as their only way to escape certain situations.
The community thus plays a huge role in suicide prevention. The Strategy provides clear guidance on how these support systems can be developed, built, and sustained.
According to its recommendations, communities can focus on mental health in legal, educational, healthcare, social, and economic spheres in the following ways:
- Launch education campaigns to raise awareness about the causes of suicide
- Implement programs that equip individuals with healthy coping mechanisms and inculcate emotional resilience
- Establish helplines for crisis intervention, providing anonymous support and guidance for at-risk individuals
- Integrate mental health services involving primary care providers who can improve early identification and intervention
- Offer postvention support to improve recovery
- Advocate policies that improve access to healthcare and affordable housing
- Encourage open dialogues about the importance of mental health in educational settings
- Raise awareness about mental health with free resources among vulnerable populations
- Reduce social isolation by establishing support groups and encouraging community engagement
- Campaign against bullying and discrimination in schools and workplaces, and ensuring the availability of legal protections for victims
- Advocate for better accessibility to healthcare infrastructure and mental health facilities
- Establish economic and legal support systems for victims of violence of all kinds
- Advocate for public health and wellness to be treated as a human right in economic policies
Individuals and organizations can actively participate in enhancing suicide prevention in their communities.
Medical institutions can be particularly helpful in providing evidence-based information, healthcare resources, and policy support to their communities. They can also promote research to enhance the identification, assessment, and management of individuals at risk of suicide to improve intervention efforts.
Final Thoughts: IMANA and Mental Health
Effective suicide prevention requires the spread of education and awareness to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues. Advocacy for better economic and legal provisions is also essential.
The National Strategy for Suicide Prevention emphasizes the importance of breaking the barriers that surround mental health issues. It also encourages communities to make support accessible for those who need it and offers corresponding guidelines.
To this end, the Islamic Medical Institution of North America (IMANA) strives to make mental health support readily available with its free directory of mental health professionals. We also offer free resources to encourage a better understanding of the importance of mental health.