Health

Suicide Prevention: Everyone Has a Role

San Diego Suicides Leveling Off

Local experts announced they have expanded their efforts to prevent suicide in San Diego County.

After conducting a series of community focus groups and online surveys, the San Diego County Suicide Prevention Council has revised its Suicide Prevention Action Plan to include nine strategies on how to prevent people from ending their lives.

The nine strategies were announced today at a news conference at the County Administration Center by representatives from the Suicide Prevention Council, Community Health Improvement Partners and the County Health and Human Services Agency. Other participants included members of the Council, including Mental Health America San Diego, United Women of East Africa and Scripps Mercy Hospital.

The strategies include input from people who have been impacted by suicide loss or have tried to end their lives. They address three levels of intervention: universal, selective and indicated.

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Universal interventions are targeted at the public and work to reduce suicide risk by strengthening protective factors such as making sure people have access to behavioral health services; have a connectedness to friends and family as well as the community and social institutions; have the skills and ability to cope and adapt to change; have a healthy sense of self and a purpose for living and possess the cultural religious or personal beliefs that discourage suicide.

Selective interventions are focused on groups that experience increased risk for suicide such as middle-aged and older men, veterans, people impacted by suicide, people with mental or substance abuse disorders and lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. Finally, indicated interventions aim to address the needs of high-risk individuals.

San Diego County was the first in the state to develop a countywide Suicide Prevention Plan in 2011 and the San Diego County Suicide Prevention Council has become a leader in the state and nation, putting best practices and research into action.

“While we have accomplished quite a bit since beginning this process, the need for suicide prevention efforts and strategies continues to grow. Our efforts must keep pace,” said Chairwoman Kristin Gaspar, County Board of Supervisors. “Through the Suicide Prevention Council’s work of putting knowledge into practice, we continue to ensure that our Suicide Prevention Action Plan is capitalizing on the most current knowledge and best practices.”

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Suicide is a leading cause of death in San Diego County. In 2016, a total of 431 San Diegans killed themselves.

The San Diego County Suicide Prevention Council and its members have been working diligently to bring awareness and knowledge of suicide prevention into communities. Through the program “Question, Persuade, Refer”, also known as QPR, nearly 15,000 people in the region have taken the suicide prevention gatekeeper training. The trainings teach people how to approach someone who might be contemplating suicide, how to offer hope and help someone in a suicide crisis.

In addition to these trainings, over 2,000 first responders have been trained in suicide prevention using a special curriculum. These trainings help law enforcement officers and emergency medical personnel ensure they are providing the most appropriate and empathic care to those in distress and help identify those at risk of suicide.

“Our goal is to create a community where everyone recognizes that they have a role to play to in suicide prevention,” said Alfredo Aguirre, director of County Behavioral Health Services. “Each of us should learn the warning signs of people considering ending their lives and encourage them to seek professional help”.

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Suicide is preventable.  For more information about suicide, risk factors, warning signs, how to get help, resources and training that is available, visit It’s Up to Us or call the County’s Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact