Module 4 > Applying the technical package to your community context
How do we rapidly develop suicide prevention efforts to meet community needs? What does it look like during a catastrophic event? This can be done by bringing together best available research from the technical package and contextual and experiential evidence based on your community and the impacts of a particular catastrophic event.
If you are new to working on suicide prevention, the best place to start is engaging with community members, organizations, and agencies to learn about the community’s lived experience and understand what is already being done to address the issue. This will help to gauge what’s already going on, what gaps exist, and where you might be able to plug in. Developing all new strategies or programs isn’t always necessary, and this may be challenging to do if community leaders are under increased strain responding to a catastrophic event.
If you have already been working on suicide prevention, you may want to take an inventory of your existing partnerships and strategies, and pair that with a rapid assessment of current needs and assets. You can also leverage existing activities and adapt them to the changing context due to the catastrophic event. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, AARP Foundation updated its existing Connect2Affect chatbot with scripts that address social isolation and loneliness in ways that adhere to physical distancing recommendations.
Strategic Planning: A strategic planning process brings together agencies, organizations and residents to understand specific problems and populations most affected, identify possible solutions, and prioritize efforts, ultimately developing a community-wide suicide prevention approach. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center outlines a strategic planning approach and recommended steps. Visit: https://www.sprc.org/effective-prevention/strategic-planning.
Planning efforts need to account for community trauma, the impact of chronic adversity (e.g., violence and structural violence) across a community, including eroded trust in institutions. Healing- and trauma-informed planning means residents, especially those from marginalized communities, are given the opportunity and support to take leadership roles in designing and implementing strategies. It also means all partners take accountability for current and past actions. This is based on the recognition that systems can induce stress and suicide prevention efforts should mitigate the impact of stress and trauma and should focus on building trust between partners and in the community. For more on this topic, see Urban Institute’s “Trauma-Informed Community Building and Engagement.”
If you have a strategic plan, it could be valuable to revisit it, and consider what additional questions have emerged in the context of the catastrophic event and who can provide insights.
During a catastrophic event, what steps will you prioritize in a rapid strategic planning process if community leaders have limited bandwidth due to other response efforts?
Who is most impacted by suicide right now who might not have been a priority population in the past?
How does (or might) a catastrophic event challenge or change your community's current suicide-prevention strategies?
In Oregon, the Alliance to Prevent Suicide, Oregon Health Authority, and their partners rapidly launched a mini-grant program during the COVID-19 pandemic focused on innovative community-grown solutions for LGBTQ+ populations. Through the mini-grants, the partnership intentionally directed resources to the LGBTQ+ community. Older LGBT adults are more likely to live alone and not have children, increasing their risk of social isolation , and LGBT youth were at increased risk for suicidality even prior to the pandemic.
The goal of the grants was to increase opportunities for life-affirming connection, resources, and care for isolated LGBTQ+ communities during this time of heightened isolation and stress. They distributed a total of $215,000 to 18 groups, with priority given to historically under-resourced communities, such as Black, Indigenous, People of Color, disabled, rural, and frontier communities. This is an example of how partnerships can quickly act during catastrophic events and support priority communities. Read the press release for more details.
Next lessons in this section
Continue to the next lessons of the "Applying the technical package" section of Module 4 to dive deeper into rapid strategy development:
Go to next lesson
Photo credit: Resilience Grows Here (this photo was taken prior to the coronavirus pandemic)