Module 2: What is a public health approach to suicide prevention?


Suicide is the result of a confluence of factors—there is no single cause and therefore no standalone solution. In addition to individual and family/relationship factors, causes of suicide include community and societal factors. As described in Module 1, catastrophic events can impact communities in a number of ways, including increasing the risk of suicide. 

Some factors that can contribute to suicide are identified in the image below.

Due to the complexity of the issue, local leaders must focus on identifying and addressing patterns of suicide, and structures that shape patterns, which is also known as systems thinking. A public health approach to preventing suicide applies a comprehensive set of strategies to effectively address this complex issue. This module describes several components of the public health approach that can guide the formulation of suicide prevention efforts, with particular focus on an infrastructure disruption context. We recommend reviewing the module with partners and completing activities as a group.

Learning outcomes

  • Distinguish where strategies fall along the prevention continuum (prevention/intervention/postvention)

  • Use community determinants of health to articulate the role of multiple sectors in preventing suicide

  • Understand the value of incorporating multiple forms of evidence in suicide prevention efforts

  • Assess existing strategies and partnerships to identify gaps in comprehensiveness, collaboration, equity, and/or evidence

Download the full activity packet for Module 2

Module sections:


Are efforts, emphasis, and resources well distributed across the prevention continuum?


Does the approach get to the roots of the problem and reach subpopulations with suicide rates higher than the general population?


Does the approach engage the community and involve multiple sectors in addressing the community determinants of health?

Community-informed strategy development

Is it rooted in community experience, in addition to best available research evidence?


Begin Module 2




If you are thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, or visit Talk to Someone Now. You can access resources designed by and for people of color here.


This module was created by Prevention Institute (PI) and Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) to support communities in operationalizing suicide prevention activities. PI and CLASP thank all those who reviewed and provided feedback to improve the modules.