Suicide Prevention

Suicide is a growing public health crisis. The Catholic health ministry has an important role to play in addressing this issue. As health care providers, community benefit organizations and public policy advocates we can address the factors that put people at risk.

CHA Podcast on The Suicide Epidemic

Scope of the Problem

In 2018 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on the growing rates of suicide in the United States.

  • Suicide rates increased in nearly every state from 1999 through 2016
  • Nearly 45,000 lives lost to suicide in 2016
  • Suicide rates went up more than 30% in half of states since 1999
  • More than half of people would died by suicide (54%) did not have a known mental health condition

Suicide rates vary by race/ethnicity, age and other population characteristics.

  • Young adults experienced larger proportional increases in suicide deaths when compared with other age groups, except, alarmingly, children and adolescents. (TFAH issue brief)
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native suicide rates are the highest of any demographic, about 24% higher than suicide rates of whites, and have increased the most dramatically in the last decade. (Suicide Prevention Resource Center)
  • LGBTQ youth are 5 times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth. (CDC)
  • In  2016, the  suicide rate was 1.5 times greater for Veterans than for non-Veteran adults, after adjusting for age and gender. (OMHSP National Suicide Data Report, 2005-2016)

Prevention Efforts

2024 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention

"Like most public health problems, suicide is preventable. While progress will continue to be made into the future, evidence for numerous programs, practices, and policies currently exists, and many programs are ready to be implemented now."
Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs and Practices, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017. 

Working with Our Communities and Advocacy

The CDC has identified a set of evidence-based approaches that can address the risk and protective factors of suicide. These approaches include programmatic and public policy efforts.

  • Strengthen economic supports — Strengthen household financial security, Housing stabilization policies
  • Strengthen access and delivery of suicide care — Coverage of mental health conditions in health insurance policies, Reduce provider shortages in underserved areas, Safer suicide care through systems change
  • Create protective environments — Reduce access to lethal means among persons at risk of suicide, Community-based policies to reduce excessive alcohol use
  • Promote connectedness — Peer norm programs, Community-engagement activities
  • Teach coping and problem solving skills — Social-emotional learning programs, Parenting skill and family relationship programs
  • Identify and support people at risk — Gatekeeper training, Crisis intervention, Treatment for people at risk of suicide
  • Lessen harms and prevent future risk — Safe reporting and messaging about suicide

Health Care Providers

Mental health, primary care and emergency department providers are likely to encounter patients at risk of suicide in their practices:

  • The majority of individuals who have died by suicide visited a primary care provider in the year before their death.
  • Close to one-half of individuals who died by suicide visited a primary care provider in the month before their death.
  • Almost 40 percent of individuals who died by suicide had an emergency department visit, but not a mental health diagnosis.

The following resources and initiatives are helping health care organizations implement standards of care that can help prevent suicide:

Also visit the CHA advocacy website for policies CHA supports around mental health and the social determinants of health.

Research and Resources