Page title
Changing the Course on Suicide: The Launch of a New National Strategy for Suicide Prevention

Main page content
Date: June 06, 2024
Category: Suicide Prevention

In the United States, someone dies by suicide every 11 minutes; the rates of suicidal behaviors have risen over the past decade; and disparities in suicide rates among certain populations are growing (PDF | 13.4 MB). There also is concern about suicide trends amid the ongoing mental health and overdose crises and on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which many people experienced loss, social isolation, behavioral health problems, and inequities in health care resources, education, housing, and other suicide risk factors.

The good news is that we have made great strides to strengthen suicide prevention infrastructure, capacity, and practice in the United States since former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher recognized suicide as a significant public health problem (1.3 MB) 25 years ago. Individuals and organizations have worked tirelessly to raise awareness about suicide; collect and analyze suicide-related data; develop partnerships and strategic plans; expand and train the workforce; develop and implement policies and programs; and conduct research and evaluation to help us understand what works, or is likely to work, to prevent suicide.

Yet despite this progress, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy notes in the 2024 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (National Strategy) that “much work remains to promote a coordinated and comprehensive approach to suicide prevention in communities across the country and at every level of government.”

Our Nation’s Plan to Prevent Suicide

On April 23, 2024, the Biden-Harris Administration released the National Strategy and first-ever Federal Action Plan (PDF | 8.3 MB) to guide our efforts over the next decade. This strategy calls on all of us to:

  • Care about suicide prevention through a thoughtful strategy that blends prevention, intervention, treatment, and postvention support.
  • Connect our prevention efforts to community and culture as key protective factors for health and wellbeing.
  • Collaborate with public and private sector partners, people with suicide-centered lived experience, and populations disproportionately affected by suicide to achieve meaningful, equitable, and measurable advancement in suicide prevention.

Reflecting current data, emerging issues, and advances in the field, the National Strategy addresses 1) community-based suicide prevention; 2) treatment and crisis services; 3) surveillance, quality improvement, and research; and, for the first time, 4) health equity and suicide prevention. Other new areas highlighted in the strategy include an expanded focus on social determinants of health, the intersection of suicide and substance use, the impact of social media on youth, and the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (988).

The strategy recognizes that suicide’s complexity requires approaches that address multiple risk and protective factors at many levels of influence (PDF | 13.4 MB)—such as intergenerational trauma, financial loss or instability, social connectedness, effective coping skills, lethal means safety, and equitable access to behavioral health care. The strategy also calls for the engagement of people impacted by and at risk of suicide in prevention efforts, whose experience brings vital perspective to this work.

Turning Strategy into Action

Realizing the full vision of the National Strategy, particularly for populations most affected by suicide, will require a coordinated, comprehensive, and sustained effort by many partners. Guiding federal agencies’ efforts is a Federal Action Plan (PDF | 8.3 MB) with over 200 priority actions to be implemented, monitored, and evaluated. Examples of SAMHSA’s actions for the next three years include:

  • Planning and supporting policy academies to support states in addressing populations disproportionately affected by suicide;
  • Improving the collection and reporting on critical 988 data; and
  • Partnering with other federal agencies to advance other areas of the National Strategy.

This new strategy is here to help all of us address the complex and heartbreaking issue of suicide. We invite you—whether you are part of a federal agency or national organization, SAMHSA suicide prevention grant, suicide prevention coalition, or other group—to identify how you can use the strategy to prevent suicide and promote mental wellbeing in your sphere of influence.

Some ideas of actions you can take include:

Everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention. Let’s care, connect, and collaborate together to save lives. And remember, if you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, a mental health or substance use crisis, or emotional distress, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline via phone (dial 988), chat (here), or text (send a text to 988). The Lifeline is confidential, available 24/7, and staffed by trained counselors across the country. It also has specially trained counselors for Veterans, LGBTQI+ youth and young adults, and Spanish speakers.