One Issue, One Goal

February 03, 2017

News Type:  Director's Corner
Author:  Jerry Reed, PhD, MSW, SPRC Director, Education Development Center, Inc.; Executive Committee Member, National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention

In January, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Allianceannounced that it will join with others to reduce the annual suicide rate 20 percent by 2025—a goal originally set by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Unifying around this goal represents a pivotal point in the history of suicide prevention. I am confident that by agreeing on a common, defined, and achievable goal, and focusing our resources and efforts on achieving that goal, we will improve lives, restore hope, and reduce the suicide rate, which has experienced a steady increase over the past 16 years.

Suicide is a complex problem. It does not have a single solution. No one organization—either public or private—can effectively address this issue on its own. We must join together as a nation to make possible that which cannot be accomplished alone.

As the Director of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) as well as an Executive Committee Member of the Action Alliance, I proudly support, and am committed to, uniting around this goal. The support of the Action Alliance, in particular, brings to the table a one-of-a-kind public and private partnership that is critical to reducing the burden of suicide on this nation. Since its creation in 2010, the Action Alliance has done much to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP), such as the following:

  • Created the Framework for Successful Messaging to engage suicide prevention messengers in changing the public narrative around suicide and suicide prevention because messaging does help shape national beliefs and perceptions about suicide
  • Championed Zero Suicide, a comprehensive approach for preventing suicide in health care settings to reach individuals already seeking health care services who may be at risk

Fine work is being carried out by the more than 250 organizations engaged with the Action Alliance, including SPRC, which serves as the Action Alliance’s Secretariat. The examples above are only some of the influential and collaborative work of the Action Alliance and its partners.

I am confident that SPRC’s leadership in advancing the Zero Suicide approach will play a critical role in reaching this aligned goal. We know that an essential part of preventing suicide is working with health care systems. These systems help to ensure that people who may be at risk receive the access to services and treatment that they need. Zero Suicide in health care is a key strategy for achieving the national goal. We are working to take Zero Suicide nationwide so that every patient in crisis who walks into a health system receives suicide safer care.

We also need to consciously target populations known to be at higher risk for suicide based on data—such as veterans and middle-aged men—while also looking to collect new data to better identify and assist other high-risk populations. It is, for example, virtually impossible to reduce the rate of suicide in this nation without reducing the rate of suicide among men in the middle years. Work is underway to address the rising rates among these specific populations. The recent SPRC report, Preventing Suicide among Men in the Middle Years: Recommendations for Suicide Prevention Programs, is an important step in this direction.

The efforts of the dedicated people and organizations in the field of suicide prevention have established a knowledge base that can help our work move forward in sound and measured steps. But we must also look at new approaches to advance the objectives of the NSSP and create lasting change in the field. Now, more than ever, our field is well positioned to change the trajectory of this issue and achieve our ambitious yet attainable goal—only if we as a nation invest in suicide prevention, and we as a field focus and unite our efforts.

If we truly want to become a nation free of suicide, we need to challenge the notion that suicide is inevitable or cannot be prevented. We must work together. I would like to encourage each and every one of you to embrace and promote the goal of reducing the annual rate of suicide 20 percent by 2025. We can’t do it without you! As it clearly states in the introduction to the NSSP, we “all have a role to play in suicide prevention.”