Finding and Using Data

Finding and using data is critical to effective prevention. Throughout the strategic planning process, using data is essential for:

  • Understanding the scope and nature of the suicide problem locally
  • Identifying key risk and protective factors 
  • Choosing or creating a comprehensive set of programs and practices that are evidence-based and match your needs
  • Evaluating your suicide prevention efforts

Data Related to Suicide Prevention

Examples of data related to suicide prevention include:

  • Deaths by suicide
  • Visits to the emergency department due to suicide attempts
  • Suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide)
  • Risk and protective factors for suicide
  • Costs related to suicide deaths and behaviors

    See our Scope of the Problem webpage for national suicide-related data and graphs.

    Sources of Data

    National Surveillance Systems

    National surveillance systems that include data relevant to suicide prevention include:

    • CDC WISQARS Fatal Injury Data: Fatal injury data and cost of injury data at the national, regional, and state levels.
    • CDC WISQARS Nonfatal Injury Data: Nonfatal national, regional, and state-level injury data and cost of injury data.
    • CDC WONDER: Access to a number of different databases and reports on suicide, injury, and disease at the county, state, regional, and national levels. The suicide data for WONDER come from the same source as the data used by WISQARS but provide more detailed information.
    • CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS): National, state, territorial, tribal government, and local school-based surveys of representative samples of 9th through 12th grade students. These surveys measure the prevalence of risk behaviors among the students, including suicide-related behaviors.
    • SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH): Annual SAMHSA household survey that collects information on substance use and mental health issues, including suicide, among Americans ages 12 and over.

    Many of these databases allow users to conduct customized searches by specific geographic areas, populations, and other variables. To learn more about how to use these datasets, see the free SPRC online course Locating and Understanding Data for Suicide Prevention.

    Local and Community-Based Data Sources

    Local and community-based data sources are also important for planning. Sources of local data may include:

    • Medical examiner’s or coroner’s office
    • Health systems and hospitals
    • Schools
    • Justice system or correctional system
    • Substance abuse treatment facilities
    • Organizations that serve specific populations (e.g., veterans, students, LGBT persons)

    Cultivating partnerships can help you access diverse data sources and obtain a full picture of your local situation. You may also want to collect data using methods such as focus groups, key informant interviews, or surveys.