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Alabama Suicide Prevention Plan

The State Health Officer and Commissioner of Mental Health invited individuals to participate in the Alabama Suicide Task Force (a voluntary effort). The initial meeting was held on March 26, 2002, in Montgomery. Twenty-seven participants from both public and private agencies and consumers participated. Three working subgroups were formed: data gathering, compilation of current resources for suicide prevention presently in place, and review of other state plans. Subsequent meetings on April 29, 2002 and May 20, 2002, focused on working in subgroups. Six monthly meetings were held. The Task Force drafted its first state plan. An updated version of the plan is available for download:

Three Year Plan for Suicide Prevention

The primary goal of the Alabama Suicide Prevention and Resource Center Plan is to reduce the prevalence and incidence of suicide and suicidal behaviors in Alabama. To that end, the following activities and programs are proposed:

  • Promote public awareness throughout Alabama of the magnitude of suicide and suicidal behaviors in the state and the wide-ranging, serious consequences for all segments of the population. Use available information technology and resources to inform the public about: A) the prevalence, incidence and effects of suicidal behaviors; B) risk factors, signs and symptoms of suicidal behaviors; and, C) the existence of effective, evidence-based prevention programs. Specific activities may include the following:

A. Develop a program to disseminate, on a continuing basis and using all available media, facts about the prevalence/incidence and effects of suicide and suicidal behaviors in all population groups and in all geographic areas of Alabama along with risk factors, signs and symptoms, and the availability of local prevention resources, including crisis centers as well as the national toll-free suicide prevention hotline. 

B. Enlist the support of the governor and legislators to declare "Suicide Prevention Awareness Week" each September. During that week inform the public and legislators and private benefactors about the importance and benefits of suicide prevention as well as the existence of feasible, evidence-based prevention programs.

C. Revise and update the ASPARC/ADPH suicide prevention website with current information on suicide and suicide prevention in the state and nation and with a focus on current/future activities of ASPARC and the state health/mental health departments. Highlight on-going or planned suicide prevention activities in cities and rural areas. Invite new members to join ASPARC. 

D. Create, maintain, and update every 6 months state-wide resource directories for suicide prevention and mental illness treatment. Publish directories on-line and in print. Publicize and distribute to health professionals, schools, churches, police and fire personnel, crisis centers and the public at large.

  • Select a limited number of feasible, evidence-based programs and activities for funding and implementation.

A. Pilot test these programs in communities, schools, colleges and other appropriate locations. Example: The promotion of firearm safety measures that reduce quick and easy access to guns. This involves ready-made materials such as the Harvard University publication, “Means Matter: Suicide, Guns and Public Health” and “Lock-it-Up”. Dissemination to parents of school children as well as health care providers would be a simple, low cost activity. (NOTE: Alabama now has the 4th highest per capita firearm death rate. Most Alabama gun deaths are suicides.)

B. Collaborate with Alabama crisis centers and hotlines in planning community-based suicide prevention activities. These might include educational, training and outreach programs, development of effective follow-up strategies for persons released from treatment, and publicizing available resources for survivors of  suicide loss.

  • Make gatekeeper training - on line or otherwise - for the identification and assessment of potentially suicidal persons available to health, mental health, substance abuse and human service professionals as well as to natural community helpers such as: coaches; hairdressers; bartenders; faith leaders; primary care physicians; police and fire protection first responders; clergy; teachers; correctional workers; school counselors; adult and child protective service social workers; and other social workers.

A. Establish state-wide access to an evidence-based, low-cost source for on-line gatekeeper training, such as QPR, for a nominal fee.

B. Develop a state-wide cadre of licensed trainers to conduct training coordinated by ASPARC.

C. Maintain and update gatekeeper training/education for first responders on a continuing basis.

  • Make gatekeeper training - on-line or otherwise - for the identification and assessment of suicidal behavior available to family members of persons at risk.

A. Establish public access to an on-line gatekeeper training program, such as QPR, available for a nominal fee.

B. Recruit private and public sector organizations to collaborate with the ASPARC in subsidizing public access to gatekeeper training.

  • Develop new suicide bereavement resources for Alabama communities. This would primarily involve the following.

A. Strengthen the network of Alabama support groups for survivors of suicide.

B. Develop at least one survivor support group per mental health area.

  • Collaborate with primary care providers to help at-risk patients acknowledge and seek treatment for depression, substance abuse, and other major mental illnesses.

A. Identify a practical suicide screening and assessment tool for busy provider practices.

B. Develop a physician’s information page/link for the ASPARC website.

C. Develop readable suicide awareness materials for primary care patients.

  • Work with state and local organizations to carry out safe, effective programs in schools and colleges  that address adolescent distress, provide crisis intervention, and include peer support for individuals seeking help.

A. Partner with the Alabama Department of Education, and local schools to incorporate suicide prevention curricula into middle and high schools. Include a local resource directory of providers and youth-serving organizations.

B. Provide gatekeeper training to teachers, school counselors, coaches and other personnel.

  • Obtain more accurate data about the incidence of suicidal behaviors in Alabama from medical examiners, coroners, hospitals, clinics, and law enforcement.

A. Support the development of a standardized reporting system for suicides and suicide attempts through the Alabama Department of Public Health.

  • Other Activities? What else should be part of the plan? Which of the above are highest priority?

If you are interested in supporting an initiative or obtaining more information, e-mail the Alabama Suicide Prevention and Resource Center.


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