CDC Funding Links Data to Suicide Prevention

A Collaboration Among Surveillance and Mental Health Experts

Suicide is a serious public health problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities.1 To understand the problem, public health practitioners use a variety of surveillance methods. CDC’s National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP) can help enhance surveillance by providing high-quality, near real-time data.

NSSP’s syndromic data are one of the few sources of surveillance data collected at the point of care-seeking (e.g., from emergency departments). These near real-time data are essential to the larger, more comprehensive surveillance picture. ED data provide early detection of potential clusters, emergent trends, and spikes in suicide and suicidal behavior. ED data can also identify the conditions and behaviors that people currently seek care for, including suicidal behavior. Public health, in collaboration with partners, can put these data into action by implementing prevention strategies in their communities. The sooner people at risk of suicide can be identified, the sooner public health practitioners can match them with prevention services.

In 2022, CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control initiated a collaboration with the NSSP to fund the Expanded Comprehensive Suicide Prevention Across the United States program, this funding opportunity, which was launched in 2020, specifies near real-time ED data as a key suicide data source for monitoring suicidal behavior. The aim is to invest in a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention, one that uses evidence-based ways to reduce factors that increase risk of suicide while identifying factors that promote resilience.1 This funding opportunity was shared broadly to attract state, tribal, local, and territorial public health agencies, healthcare partners, researchers, and others.

Why this matters...
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Suicide is preventable. Emergency department data can be used to fill knowledge gaps, characterize the extent of the problem, monitor trends, and tailor local resources to meet the needs of those at highest risk of suicide and suicidal behavior.

Several states are already making progress in comprehensive suicide prevention. The existing Comprehensive Suicide Prevention program currently has 11 funded recipients, and an additional 6 recipients will be funded in 2022. Adding a surveillance component to their work will include access to syndromic surveillance data. Current and newly funded recipients are required to either start sharing ED visit data with NSSP or make a concerted effort to increase visibility of syndromic surveillance within their public health jurisdiction.

This funding opportunity is an example of how CDC works with state, tribal, local, and territorial public health agencies to strengthen their work to reduce suicide and suicide attempts, especially among vulnerable populations.2 Through funding opportunities such as this one, ED data are being integrated with other data sources to build comprehensive surveillance systems that benefit public health.

Find out more about what CDC is doing to prevent suicide by visiting its Suicide Prevention website.

See Syndromic Surveillance in Action to learn more about how CDC NSSP funding is improving the nation’s public health.

How do CDC collaborations benefit state and local health departments?

State and local public health departments have limited resources. Each time CDC combines and administers one versus multiple cooperative agreements, CDC not only reduces its reporting burden but that of its funding recipients.

Recipients of multi-center funding benefit from the combined expertise of surveillance experts. Recipients are exposed to new technologies and different surveillance approaches. They build new relationships that can lead to sharing data; collaborating on studies, research, and publication in scientific journals; and exchanging best practices.