Integration Key Area 2:


Facilitating Efforts with Diverse Settings and Populations

If you are interested in more in-depth information, click on the links provided throughout this key area.

Suicide prevention efforts are most effective when they are closely coordinated with a variety of programs and services in the community (e.g., housing, employment, child protective services). This coordination will reduce a duplication of efforts and increase your effectiveness by having more than one way of reaching people.

Consider the range of people you have already decided you want to support. They may include people who are part of a group at increased risk for suicide, based on your data analysis and community needs assessment(s), and who:

  • Have a history of experiencing thoughts of suicide
  • Have acute suicidal thoughts
  • Have made a recent attempt

Look at the diversity of populations, including age ranges, in your community. Different subgroups within your populations may need to be reached in different ways. Tailor the planning for and implementation of your multiple, coordinated approaches to the specific context of a particular group. These contexts may be social, economic, cultural, and/or environmental. For more details on how to make sure your programs, policies, and practices are appropriate for a particular community context, you can visit the Fit element.

Key Steps

Include diverse populations

When considering partners, think about organizations, settings, and individuals that represent the diversity of your community and the groups you are trying to reach. As a start, these partners could include the following:

  • Ages (e.g., schools, retirement facilities)
  • Faiths (e.g., Christian pastors, Jewish rabbis, Muslim imams, Buddhist centers)
  • Races and ethnicities (e.g., a nonprofit serving Black American adults, a shelter supporting refugees, an urban Indian health center, tribal elders)
  • Workplaces (e.g., a local factory or bank)
  • People with lived experience (e.g., attempt and loss survivors, others in recovery)

Focus on organizations and settings that tap into the groups at increased risk for suicide based on your data analysis and planning efforts. (If you have not already determined which groups in your community are at increased risk, go to the Data and Planning elements.)

As you strive to reach diverse populations across the lifespan, be sure to consider what is feasible. You will not be able to reach every subgroup in your community immediately with prevention activities. Prioritize populations based on highest risk, feasibility, and the likelihood of making a difference.

Identify setting-specific opportunities

Think about the programs and services that touch the main groups you want to reach. Consider their life stages, characteristics, and frequent activities. Where do people from these groups live, work, learn, pray, and spend their free time? These settings provide chances to effectively reach your key populations. Members of your coalition who identify with these groups or characteristics can help you gain key insights about the best ways to reach them. Pay particular attention to settings that can help reduce risk factors or enhance protective factors for your key groups.

The types of specific settings in a community may include:

  • Health and mental health care facilities
  • Schools
  • Faith communities
  • Veteran-serving organizations
  • Peer services
  • Employment services
  • Courts and the justice system
  • Child welfare and foster care
  • Community-based organizations and services
  • Senior centers and senior living facilities
  • Libraries
  • Hair salons and barbershops

As an example, do people in your populations of focus go to the doctor at least annually? Do they use emergency departments (EDs)? Both health care settings can be useful routes for reaching people who may not typically seek out mental health treatment. These settings can be good places to conduct suicide risk screenings, safety planning, and referrals to mental health treatment. By collaborating with community primary care physicians and EDs, you can identify patients who are experiencing suicidal thoughts (a risk factor for suicide) and provide them with an evidence-informed intervention through safety planning. You can also increase their access to mental health care. Both are protective factors.

Collaborate with partners

In thinking about which settings to focus on, start with ones you have prioritized where there are also good representation and engagement from partners in your coalition. If you do not have partners that represent priority settings and organizations, seek out new ones to fill these gaps. Ask your coalition, “What are your organizations already doing that intersects with our goals and activities? What other evidence-informed activities might be a good fit there?” Aim to collaborate on linking their already existing services and activities with related suicide prevention outcomes. For additional guidance on gathering information on community context, visit Data Key Area 2: Gathering Information on Community Context.

As you grow your relationships with partners, opportunities for new ways to integrate suicide prevention approaches into organizational efforts will arise. Often, you can collaborate to track data that show their community-based efforts are reducing risk factors for suicide or increasing protective factors. You can also learn more about who the partner organizations serve. Do they interact with clients struggling with suicide? (Usually, the answer will be yes.) Use these discussions to explore potential ways to incorporate suicide-specific strategies into the organization’s daily activities.

For example, what are partners from unemployment services already doing that is relevant to suicide prevention? Departments of job and family services (DJFS) help reduce unemployment and financial instability (both risk factors for suicide). Your coalition can help DJFS identify the role these services are playing in reducing community members’ suicide risk and connect them with appropriate partners (such as higher education students or epidemiologists) to formally evaluate this impact. See the Data element to learn more.

If DJFS is actively invested in suicide prevention, your coalition might also partner with them to offer community trainings on life skills development, educate staff on the warning signs of suicide, or provide client referrals to community mental health services. In this example, you are recognizing DJFS’ daily work that already reduces risk factors, and you are helping them to incorporate suicide-specific approaches into their efforts.

Before you are ready to collaborate, you may need to educate partners about suicide prevention and how your efforts will help them achieve their goals. For tips on this, see Unity Key Area 1: Identifying Leaders and Partners, and Building Their Capacity. After educating partners, get input from them on how to best tailor plans and activities. See the Fit element for more information on tailoring.

Over time, awareness of your suicide prevention coalition and efforts will likely grow in the wider community. You can use this recognition to reach out to additional populations and settings. It is important to keep reflecting on who is and is not represented in your efforts and build and strengthen new partnerships over time.

Keep activities aligned with your strategic plan

As you collaborate with partners, make sure your collective efforts continue to connect with your strategic plan’s goals and objectives. Suggest that your coalition, subcommittees, and community partners refer to the strategic plan regularly.

If prevention activities have gone off track, consider why and how to adjust your plans or efforts:

  • Do the related goals and objectives need to be adjusted to reflect your changing community context?
  • Do the prevention approaches of one or more settings need to be adjusted to better align with the goals and objectives?

Visit Planning Key Area 3: Putting Your Plan into Action to learn more.

Key Resources on Facilitating Efforts with Diverse Settings and Populations