Unity Key Area 3:


Creating a Shared Vision

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

After you have identified local leaders and have begun expanding their suicide prevention capacity, it is very important to develop a common vision for addressing the issue of suicide in the community. Ideally, the community suicide prevention coalition will develop the big picture vision as part of their start-up, possibly as a mission statement. It could describe a commitment to broad principles of effective suicide prevention, such as using a public health approach, listening to people with lived experience, addressing health inequities, following safe messaging, and/or other key topics.. The vision should be grounded in your community’s broad suicide-related data and should guide your future strategic planning. Visit both the Data element and Planning element to learn more.


Key Steps

Analyze data

Analyze your available data to identify what is contributing to your community’s suicide issue. There are risk and protective factors for suicide that are common across most communities. But each community also has its own experiences, challenges, and risk factors that contribute to its suicide issue. Before a shared vision can be developed on how to prevent suicide, your suicide prevention partners must have a shared understanding of your community’s experiences, challenges, and risk factors and how they may be contributing to the suicide issue.

To develop this shared understanding, set aside time as a group to review available suicide-related data in your community. Ideally, you will work with local data partners (such as coroners, epidemiologists, health department staff, or university professors) who are willing to share non-identifiable data with the group. In communities where there are only a very small number of cases, you may need to discuss additional ways to keep the data confidential. Examples include having coalition members sign a confidentiality agreement or having data shared with the group cover a longer time period or wider geographic range so that the numbers are larger.

For example, in one community, the local health department’s statistician, the county coroner, and a police officer join coalition meetings quarterly to share trends from their independent data sources on local suicide deaths. This data can show what community groups are at greatest risk, common factors that occur before suicide deaths, where deaths most frequently occur, and more. You may also want to work with state-level organizations to obtain data, including the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) where you can obtain data by zip code.

Turn to the the Data Element for guidance on accessing and analyzing data.

Discuss what the data mean for taking action

Through group discussions about the data, your suicide prevention partners will develop a shared understanding of who is most in need of suicide prevention support and the risk and protective factors most important to focus on in your community. It is important to have an assigned facilitator to guide these discussions and ensure they use safe and respectful messaging. Visit the Communication element to learn more about safe messaging.

Agree on priority issues and groups of people

You will likely have more than one group of people or suicide-related issue that members are passionate about. Suicide affects all demographic groups. However, it is likely that one, two, or three groups of people in your community are experiencing the most suicides, suicide attempts, or thoughts of suicide. Or there may be a particular location or frequent risk factor that more of the people who have died by suicide (or who have attempted suicide) have in common.

Identifying these differences can help you come to agreement on where and how to invest your time and resources wisely. These are the beginning steps of strategic planning. Your ability to create group agreement will be strengthened by doing strategic planning. Visit the Planning element to learn more.

Develop unique roles for each partner

Find out the interests, skills, and ability of each organization and then provide relevant ways to get involved. Roles based on partners’ strengths may include any of the following:

  • Running the group
  • Offering suicide prevention trainings
  • Lending expertise in strategic planning and goal setting
  • Raising awareness within their organization and the wider community
  • Contributing staff time or volunteers to suicide prevention efforts
  • Evaluating the community prevention activities
  • Presenting or communicating on suicide prevention

The following are examples of ways in which organizations may be able to work together to help:

  • A local factory pays for mental health awareness trainings for adult men in the community
  • Community mental health center staff provides the training
  • The VFW advertises the trainings to its members
List partners who could play a role in particular programs, policies, or practices in the Strategic Planning Worksheet, Section 3, Column 3.
Regularly check with partners to monitor efforts

To maintain a shared vision over time, you need to conduct regular meetings with partners, check on progress, and make decisions about how to improve and change efforts as needed. Whether you meet monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly, ensure your partners are given time to share updates and progress, discuss challenges, and simply get to know one another better. To have a shared vision, shared experiences must be developed.

To learn more about monitoring and updating suicide prevention plans, visit Planning Key Area 3: Putting Your Plan into Action.