Core Competency: Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is a key competence required of program managers who will be carrying out a suicide prevention program. As described in the Strategic Planning section, any suicide prevention effort should be guided by a strategic planning process that includes the following six steps: 

Step 1: Describe the problem or context 

Step 2: Choose long-term goals 

Step 3: Identify key risk and protective factors 

Step 4: Select or develop interventions 

Step 5: Plan the evaluation 

Step 6: Implement, evaluate, and improve your program 

Strategic, well-designed programs can be developed only after program planners have gained a thorough understanding of the suicide problem in their community and of how their programs are expected to reduce specific risk factors or increase protective factors. To plan strategically is to begin with these ends in mind.  

It is important to start out by gathering data to assess the scope and characteristics of the problem, the resources and assets your community has available for suicide prevention, and the climate in which suicide prevention will occur. Once you have an understanding of the problem, you can create goals that address the specific risk and protective factors in your community. Review the data you have collected about risk and protective factors and populations at highest risk of suicide and then focus on the conditions or behaviors that you are targeting for change.   

The next step is to select or develop appropriate interventions (activities) for addressing the identified risk and protective factors. When doing so, it is especially important to choose interventions that are grounded in the best available evidence (i.e., scientific evidence, behavioral theory, best practices, and logic). For more, see Evidence-Based Prevention.  

It is also important during the strategic planning process to create an evaluation plan, so that when you implement your programs, you already know how you will measure success. Evaluation information can be used to improve program effectiveness and inform decisions about future programming.   

Core Competencies 

  • You use data to inform program planning. 

  • Your goals are reasonable and achievable and focus on decreasing risk and increasing protective factors. 

  • The programs you use are developed using the best available scientific evidence, behavioral theory, best practices, and logic. 

  • You adapt evidence-based and/or best practice programs to address specific target audiences. 

  • Your programs are monitored regularly, barriers are addressed, and mid‐course adjustments are made when needed. 

  • Your outcomes are evaluated, and evaluation results inform and improve future implementation. 

How Your SPRC Prevention Specialist Can Help 

Your Prevention Specialist can: 

  • Help you find the right questions to ask to better understand the suicide problem in your community 

  • Help you brainstorm where to find reliable data on the suicides in your community and what other information sources you can use 

  • Work with you to set reasonable and attainable goals and ensure those goals address the issues of the populations that are at highest risk of suicide 

  • Guide you in defining what strategies can address the risk and protective factors you are targeting (e.g., restrict access to lethal means, postvention, increase help seeking) 

  • Help you choose interventions that are a good fit for your target audience 

  • Think about how to best collect information for your evaluation plan and brainstorm what important questions should be asked and at what part of the implementation 

  • During implementation, help you track what has been completed, take time to recognize and celebrate accomplishments, and communicate your progress with stakeholders 

  • Work with you to identify successes, address barriers, and make sure your goals are being met