SAMHSA’s Suicide Prevention Efforts

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is just one of SAMHSA’s many initiatives that help those contemplating suicide or someone at risk.

SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a 24-hour toll-free, confidential hotline, has helped more than 6 million people since its inception in January 2005. People from anywhere in the United States can call to be routed to the closest crisis center within Lifeline’s network of more than 160 crisis centers. Users also have the option to text or live chat with a crisis counselor. Evaluations of the SAMHSA-funded network show that most callers report decreased feelings of distress and hopelessness and fewer thoughts about suicide as a result of their calls.

Suicide Safe, SAMHSA’s new suicide prevention app for mobile devices and optimized for tablets, helps providers integrate suicide prevention strategies into their practice and address suicide risk among their patients. SAMHSA’s Suicide Safe app is available for download.

Through a SAMHSA/Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) collaboration that began in 2007, more than 1,200 veterans, service members, and their families call the Lifeline number each day, press “1” at the prompt, and are connected to professional VA counselors in Canandaigua, NY. The “Veterans Crisis Line” is branded “Military Crisis Line” when promoted to active duty service members, National Guard members, and reservists, so that they and their families will also know that they are welcome to use the service.

SAMHSA launched Cooperative Agreements for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Crisis Center Follow-Up in 2008 to support crisis centers within SAMHSA’s Suicide Prevention Lifeline network in reconnecting with callers to offer emotional support and ensure that they follow up with treatment referrals. In 2013, the program expanded to include follow-up with people at risk for suicide who have been discharged from emergency rooms and inpatient hospital units. Eighteen crisis centers are currently participating.

Suicide Prevention Among Tribal Youth

Suicide rates are much higher among Native American youth than among youth in the United States overall. In 2010, the suicide rate among American Indians and Alaska Natives ages 8-24 was 14.98 per 100,000, more than twice the suicide rate for the general population within the same age range. Helping tribal communities reduce youth suicide is one of SAMHSA’s most important missions.

The SAMHSA presentation, Promoting Suicide Prevention Efforts in American Indian/Alaska Native Communities: A Cross-Agency Approach – 2014 (PDF | 112 KB), provides information on the federal government’s suicide prevention efforts.

Suicide Prevention Grants

SAMHSA awarded grants to four states in 2014 to support their efforts to implement the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP) goals and objectives focused on preventing suicide and suicide attempts among working age adults 25 to 64 years old. Learn more about NSSP Grants.

SAMHSA also offers the Garrett Lee Smith State/Tribal Suicide Prevention Program. SAMHSA's largest suicide prevention grant program, it is focused on reducing suicide and suicide attempts among youth ages 10 to 24. Since 2005, SAMHSA has awarded 180 of these grants: all 50 states, Guam, Washington, D.C., and 47 tribes have received at least one such grant.

Independent evaluations of SAMHSA’s suicide prevention efforts have shown that it is making an impact. For example, a recent analysis of counties conducting government legal service (GLS) trainings in comparison to matched counties that were not implementing trainings showed significantly fewer youth suicides within GLS counties than within matched counties.

Now Is The Time—Prevention and Early Intervention

On January 16, 2013, President Barack Obama released the Now Is The Time plan, which outlines how the nation can better support the behavioral health needs of young people. SAMHSA has played a key role in supporting activities outlined in the plan, including developing and funding new grant programs.

The Now Is The Time Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience Education) builds and expands the capacity of state and local educational agencies to increase awareness of mental health and substance abuse issues among school-age youth. Mental Health First Aid training is also provided to help school personnel and other adults detect and respond to mental health issues in children and young adults, and connect children, youth, and families who may have behavioral health issues with appropriate services.

In addition, SAMHSA’s Healthy Transitions program improves access to treatment and services for youth and young adults aged 16 to 25 that either have, or are at risk of developing, a serious mental health condition. Individuals in this age group are also at high risk for substance use and suicide. Unfortunately, they are also among the least likely to seek and receive help.

Grants awarded under the Healthy Transitions program are designed to:

  • Increase awareness about early indications of serious mental health concerns
  • Identify action strategies to use when a serious mental health concern is detected
  • Provide training to provider and community groups to improve services and supports specific to this age group
  • Enhance peer and family supports
  • Develop effective services and interventions for youth, young adults, and their families as these young people transition to adult roles and responsibilities

Support for the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention

SAMHSA is proud to support the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, a public-private partnership with more than 200 participating organizations, which is advancing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. The Action Alliance has set a goal of saving 20,000 lives over the course of 5 years. To help meet this goal, SAMHSA is funding the Suicide Prevention Resource Center to act as Executive Secretariat, and is active on the Executive Committee and many Action Alliance task forces. Some of the Action Alliance's key initiatives include:

In September 2014, the Action Alliance's Faith Communities Task Force launched the Your Life Matters! campaign, which aims to give faith communities of every tradition, philosophy, sect, or denomination an opportunity to dedicate one Sabbath each year to celebrate life, messages of hope, connections, reasons for living, and support for community members facing mental health and substance abuse challenges. Each faith tradition is encouraged to dedicate one Sabbath each year, preferably corresponding to World Suicide Prevention Day. However, the message that each congregant's life matters could be promoted anytime during the year, whenever it fits the needs of the local faith community.

The Your Life Matters! campaign features a continually growing website where faith leaders can find all the information and resources they need for a successful local event. The Faith Communities Task Force of the Action Alliance is an interfaith group of faith leaders and clergy, theologians, authors, and suicide prevention and mental health experts. The Faith Communities Task Force has assembled communications aids and worship and spiritual resources suitable for each of the major faith traditions in the United States, along with a compendium of other resources to assist faith communities in promoting mental and spiritual health, reducing suicide risk, and, if tragedy strikes, supporting the needs of family and members after a suicide event. The Faith Communities Task Force intends to grow the web-based resource and invites the public to submit other materials that may be added to the campaign website, including:

  • Prayers, meditations, and liturgies
  • Sermons, homilies, reflections, and related resources
  • Scriptures and sacred texts

Contact the task force via email.

Native Connections

In 2014, SAMHSA awarded grants to 20 tribes to prevent and reduce suicidal behavior and substance abuse, and promote mental health among American Indian and Alaska Native young people up to and including age 24. Learn more about the Native Connections grant program.

Office of Personnel Management (OPM)/SAMHSA Fact Sheets: Federal Workplace Supports Mental Health

In June 2014, Administrator Pamela Hyde and OPM Director Katherine Archuleta co-wrote materials that were sent to every federal employee: Federal Workplace Supports Mental Health: Information for Supervisors – 2014 (PDF | 196 KB) and Federal Workplace Supports Mental Health: Employee Fact Sheet – 2014 (PDF | 158 KB). The fact sheets were designed with two goals in mind:

  • To promote positive mental health in the workplace
  • To support employees who may be facing health or substance abuse challenges
Last Updated: 05/14/2018