ADHS Suicide Prevention Plan includes recommendations to improve state crisis response and build community resilience


Soraya Marashi


The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) recently released its Suicide Prevention Action Plan for 2022-2023, outlining recommendations to increase the state’s resilience and resistance to suicide and improve crisis response.


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According to ADHS, in 2020, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in Arizona. Rates are generally increasing, with males having the highest rates of suicide in the state, but rates among females have also been increasing in recent years. Native Americans in Arizona also continue to have a disproportionately high suicide rate (22.3 per 100,000) compared to other racial/ethnic groups. 

Sheila Sjolander, Assistant Director of Public Health Prevention Services at ADHS, presented this data and the recommendations during an interim Teen Mental Health House Ad Hoc Committee meeting on July 11th.

Some key strategic recommendations, along with the overarching department goals they target, are detailed below. 

Goal: “Ensure suicide prevention resources, crisis support, and treatment services are universally available to clinicians, communities, families, and survivors.”

  • Recommendation 1: Promote state crisis resources.

ADHS should partner with the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to fund an advertisement campaign for the new 988 crisis hotline.

  • Recommendation 2: Disseminate information in Arizona to inform communities about best practices, approaches, prevention training and resources to address suicide.

ADHS should utilize its “Start a Conversation” public awareness campaign to promote social connectedness and suicide prevention resources, and develop occupation-specific suicide prevention resources for professions with higher risk for suicide. ADHS should also utilize the Healthy Arizona Worksites Program to distribute worksite-appropriate suicide prevention material to community employers.

  • Recommendation 3: Increase access to postvention resources and services for communities.

ADHS should establish a state postvention program and distribute postvention resources statewide to individuals and communities that have experienced suicide.

  • Recommendation 4: Increase passive suicide sensors in Arizona.

ADHS should “… create capacity to train Adult Mental Health First Aid (aMHFA) on a by-request basis and convene a statewide workgroup to explore expanding aMHFA program across all state agencies and departments.”

Goal: “Utilize current community trends in order to best address emergent threats and direct future efforts.”

  • Recommendation 1: Enhance suicide data collection and expand surveillance systems to identify community trends.

ADHS should “… enhance data collection activities to monitor community-level risk and local suicide trends and utilize syndromic surveillance to examine hospital discharge data to monitor suicide-related outcomes and establish trends.”

Goal: “Support disproportionately affected persons and populations (e.g. LGBTQ+, American Indian/Alaska Native communities) with focused interventions that are appropriate and delivered with cultural humility and respect.”

  • Recommendation 1: Increase access and awareness of specific resources for disproportionately affected communities.

For the LGBTQ+ community, ADHS should “… partner with organizations that support people who identify as LGBTQ+ throughout Arizona to promote culture and community.” ADHS should also “… convene a population-specific workgroup to solicit input for future prevention planning and develop and distribute specific resources to support people who identify as LGBTQ+ in collaboration with working group and community stakeholders.”

For adolescents, ADHS should “… partner with state agencies and dental industry stakeholders to develop adolescent oral health suicide prevention screening protocols and recommendations,” as well as “… participate in the Arizona Department of Education and ADHS joint Collaborative Innovation and Improvement Network workgroup to implement joint, cross-agency initiatives.”

For American Indian and Alaska Native communities, ADHS should “… collaborate with Phoenix Indian Center and other urban Indian agencies to support Urban American Indian/Alaska Native initiatives in Maricopa County and surrounding areas.” ADHS should also “… establish relationships with Arizona Tribal Nations with assistance from ADHS tribal liaison and create workgroups to explore potential partnerships.”

Goal: “Support state prevention efforts by serving as a focal point for internal and external coalitions and partnerships.”

  • Recommendation 1: Engage stakeholders through event promotion and community-level prevention.

ADHS should promote adoption of the Zero Suicide Model in Arizona hospitals and behavioral health clinics to increase mental health intervention opportunities. ADHS should also make efforts to reduce access to methods commonly used for suicide by convening community-level listening sessions on reducing the number of firearm-related suicides in Arizona. ADHS should also use the ADHS Suicide Prevention website community event calendar to promote community suicide prevention events throughout the state.

Goal: “Improve the resilience of individuals and communities.”

  • Recommendation 1: Improve community resilience through upstream interventions.

ADHS should promote non-school partnerships with youth, such as Boys and Girls Clubs, attend Mental Health Parity Advisory Committee meetings to maintain awareness on matters related to mental health parity in Arizona, and increase resilience to Adverse Childhood Experiences.