Support for Local Suicide Prevention Efforts Bolstered by Data


Last month’s National Suicide Prevention Week and World Suicide Prevention Day may have come and gone, but the tireless work to end all suicides goes on every minute of every day.

Throughout California, advocates, county partners, community organizations, schools, families, and others continue their suicide prevention efforts along with the California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission.

“Suicide is preventable and one life lost is one too many,” said Commissioner and Project Chair Tina Wooton. “The Commission and its many partners recognize that far too many lives are lost to suicide each year. We will continue to work collaboratively to help save as many precious lives as possible.”

The Commission recently unveiled a new tool, the Suicide Incidence and Rate dashboard, as the latest component of its Transparency Suite.

“The Commission’s Suicide Prevention Data Dashboard is very useful because it provides state and county level data, both incidence and rates, and data disaggregated by race/ethnicity, age, sex and method,” said Sylvia Tang, a Community Health Planner with San Mateo County Behavioral Health. “This dashboard will help me, and the rest of the San Mateo County Suicide Committee make informed decisions on what and who to focus on in our local suicide prevention work.”

Ms. Tang co-chairs San Mateo’s Suicide Prevention Program and oversees the county’s behavioral health stigma discrimination reduction programs. She also focuses on partnership and coalition building.

The Commission embraces partnerships and works with many private and public affiliates to advance several key suicide prevention strategies as outlined in Striving for Zero: California’s Strategic Plan for Suicide Prevention. These strategies include establishing state suicide prevention leadership within the Department of Public Health and promoting local strategic planning through the Commission’s Striving for Zero learning collaborative, comprising 34 counties.

The collaborative provides information on how counties can use the statewide data in their local suicide prevention efforts. It also includes boosting suicide prevention training for school-based clubs and screening and triage support for educators. The Commission works to fortify crisis services through its promotion of the Crisis Now Model among 11 counties and its triage personnel grants.

The Suicide Incidence and Rate dashboard visually displays publicly available information and gives greater public access to and promotes awareness about trends in deaths by suicide in California. People with mental health challenges especially those experiencing depression, are at increased risk for suicide compared to people without those challenges. Last year was especially difficult for many people because of the isolation and loneliness and the loss of wages, jobs and homes brought on by the pandemic.

The data dashboard can be broken down by demographic factors and methods used in a suicide, such as firearms. It shows both counts of deaths per year (“incidence”) and deaths per 100,000 residents per year (‘rate”).

“As with any public health challenge, data is essential for identifying those at greatest risk for suicide so that we can deploy effective strategies to save lives,” said Ashley Mills, Commission Research Supervisor. “Without it, we run the risk of channeling scarce resources away from those who need them the most.”

Visit the dashboard and explore the statewide trends. You may find data that is useful for your local suicide prevention planning. For instance, suicide rates for African American women increased from 2.5 in 2017 to 4.7 in 2019, an 88% increase. Also, American Indian/Alaskan Natives had the largest decline in suicide rates which peaked in 2016 at 24 and declined by 45% in 2019 to 13.3. These and a wealth of other county-specific findings are available on the dashboard.

There are two views on the dashboard. The “Overview” page displays a map of California color coded by the county level suicide rate. On the right, there are two trend line graphs for suicide incidence and rate which the user can tailor by making selections on age groups, cause of injury, race, and sex.

The “Detailed View” shows the county level suicide incidence by selected category at the top. The bottom of the page displays county level suicide rate by selected category. The orange line (or dot) is the California rate for selected categories. Users can customize the view by making selections using the county, age group, cause of injury, race, and sex filter on the top of the page.

If you or someone you know needs support, you can reach a trained crisis counselor 24/7 by calling or texting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or click here to start a live, online chat.