Massachusetts Strategic Plan for Suicide Prevention

Executive Summary | Using the State Plan | Information Gathering and Key FindingsVision of Success | The Plan's Guiding Principles | Framework of the State PlanMonitoring, Evaluating, and Reporting Progress

Massachusetts Strategic Plan for Suicide Prevention

Revised Massachusetts Strategic Plan for Suicide Prevention May 2015

MA Strategic Plan_May 2015


To view the entire Massachusetts Strategic Plan for Suicide Prevention, go to
Below is the Executive Summary of the Massachusetts Strategic Plan for Suicide Prevention.

Executive Summary

“It is the hope that the plan will bring attention to the public health problem of suicide and the reality that there is a great deal that we can do to prevent it.”

Massachusetts Strategic Plan for Suicide Prevention
Timothy P. Murray, Lt. Governor of MA. – September, 2009

The Massachusetts Strategic Plan for Suicide Prevention (State Plan) provides a framework for identifying priorities, organizing efforts, and contributing to a statewide focus on suicide prevention, over the next several years. The State Plan is an initiative of the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention (MCSP) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). The plan’s development was guided by a seven-member Steering Committee convened by MCSP, with DPH as the lead agency and the Department of Mental Health’s (DMH) support.

In 2008, there were 504 suicides in Massachusetts—more than deaths from homicide (183) and HIV/AIDS (143) combined. Moreover, nonfatal self-injury also burdens the Commonwealth’s health care system— there were 4,480 hospital stays (68.9 per 100,000) and 6,714 emergency department discharges for nonfatal self-inflicted injury in FY2008.

With prevention strategies grounded in the best evidence available, the support and involvement of all stakeholders, and the guidance offered by this plan, we are confident we can make significant progress toward the goal of preventing suicide and decreasing suicidal behavior in Massachusetts. Through joint action, using the State Plan as a common point of reference, the opportunity for better coordination and collaboration and a more comprehensive approach to suicide prevention should vastly increase the likelihood of success.

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Using the State Plan

Data-gathering and outreach during the strategic planning process helped identify a range of issues, and the plan establishes a framework for specific goals related to suicide prevention.

The State Plan does not assume that a specific agency or organization has overall responsibility or capacity to address all, or even the majority, of these goals. Rather, this plan holds many opportunities for individuals, groups of people, communities, institutions, and organizations to make contributions toward achieving the plan’s goals, both individually and collectively. Collaborating and partnering with others can result in significantly greater impact.

Likewise, this plan does not assume that current state government funding will be the only resource for realizing these goals. Therefore, to ensure sustainability of all efforts, organizations must advocate for and pursue diversification of funding.

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Information Gathering and Key Findings

At the outset, an extensive information-gathering process was conducted to assure inclusion of a wide range of stakeholders. Methods included a survey, an electronic town meeting, stakeholder interviews, and a series of focus groups. Over 500 individuals contributed ideas and comments.  The findings from the information gathering highlighted a number of common themes including:

  • Lack of understanding that suicide is a preventable public health problem
  • The need for culturally competent community-based training on suicide prevention
  • Stigma associated with suicide is a significant barrier to prevention and help-seeking
  • Stigma may be associated with complex histories of oppression that take specific cultural forms, e.g. racial/ethnic communities, GLBT communities, etc.
  • There are poor linkages at the state and community levels among mental health, substance abuse, and community health services as well as considerable barriers to accessing appropriate mental health care
  • There is limited awareness about the effectiveness of reducing access to lethal means.

In addition, findings indicated stronger infrastructure is needed to support suicide prevention efforts including increased public awareness of suicide and suicide prevention, more extensive collaboration among state agencies, consumer and survivor participation at all levels of decision-making, ongoing advocacy for public and private resources, continued investment in surveillance and expanded data gathering, and building local and regional suicide prevention coalitions and strengthening the statewide coalition.

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Vision of Success

  • Suicide is viewed as a preventable public health problem.
  • Individuals experiencing mental illness, substance abuse, or feelings of suicide feel comfortable asking for help, and have access to appropriate services in their communities.
  • Suicide prevention services are provided in an integrated manner so that people receive the comprehensive coverage and support best suited for their individual needs.
  • Suicide prevention activities incorporate elements of resiliency and protective factors as well as risk factors.
  • Prevention strategies grounded in the best evidence available are used in cities and towns across the Commonwealth.
  • There is a strong, diverse, state-wide suicide prevention coalition with regional coalitions in every part of the state, as well as local community coalitions.
  • Institutions and organizations include mental health, suicide prevention, and risk and resiliency efforts as part of their health and wellness benefits, policies, curricula, and other initiatives.
  • Suicide prevention is supported by public and private funding sources.
  • There is a general public awareness of suicide prevention efforts in the Commonwealth and willingness to assist those who may be in need of help.

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The Plan’s Guiding Principles:

  • Suicide affects people of all ages and must be addressed across the lifespan.
  • Stigma and discrimination prevents open acknowledgment of mental illness and suicidal behavior, and this inhibits successful prevention, intervention, and recovery.
  • Some populations are at higher risk of suicide than others; therefore, targeted population-based strategies and models are necessary and appropriate.
  • Every person should have a safe, caring, and healthy relationship with at least one other person.
  • Prevention should take into account both risk and resiliency of individuals and populations.
  • All suicide prevention materials, resources, and services should be culturally and linguistically competent, and developmentally and age appropriate.
  • Consumers and target groups should have input and participate in all levels of suicide prevention planning and decision-making.
  • Information-sharing and collaboration must occur between all stakeholders in suicide prevention.
  • The best evidence available should be used, to the extent possible, when planning, designing, and implementing suicide prevention efforts.
  • More research and evaluation of suicide and suicide prevention programs, including innovative approaches and best evidence available, should be undertaken.
  • To ensure sustainability of suicide prevention efforts, there should be advocacy for diverse funding and other resources.
  • Comprehensive coverage, accessibility, and continuity of physical and mental health care services should be ensured.

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Framework of the State Plan

The State Plan acknowledges the complex interplay between the various stakeholders in society that are involved with and, indeed, required for successful suicide prevention efforts. The plan is organized around a framework encompassing five dynamic and interactive.

I.  Individual
II. Interpersonal
III. Community and Coalitions
IV. Institutions and Organizations
V. Social Structure and Systems

Each of the five Levels includes a Theme, an Audience, Goals, and Examples of Possible Actions organized into one matrix per Level. Examples of Possible Actions are general and not meant to be exhaustive. While the plan does not address the specific targeted needs of all populations known to be at increased risk of suicide or of specific geographic regions or communities, it does offer two examples for approaching suicide prevention: 1) with a group at higher risk of suicide, and 2) within a community affected by suicide. The plan also presents a series of logic models for the planning framework.

Appendices include a resource guide and a glossary of terms and definitions used in the plan.

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Monitoring, Evaluating, and Reporting Progress

The collective ownership and inclusive nature of the State Plan is a great strength, but also presents challenges. For this reason, the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention will take the lead in monitoring, evaluating, and reporting progress and implementation of the Plan. The MCSP will work with stakeholders to track progress on Plan implementation, assess status and success of specific goals and actions, and solicit feedback on strengths and weaknesses of the Plan itself. The MCSP and DPH will develop an annual report on the State Plan to share with the state legislature, appropriate state agencies and other stakeholders. The State Plan and progress reports will serve as valuable resources for tracking and communicating progress and outcomes.

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