Core Competency: Data and Surveillance

Data tell you the who, what, and how of suicide in your area. Using surveillance data to pinpoint high suicide death and attempt rates by age, gender, ethnicity, and/or life circumstance (e.g., veteran status) can help you decide where to focus your efforts and choose appropriate strategies. Data on related risk and protective factors, such as substance abuse and violence, can also help you better target your prevention efforts. This information is critical when seeking funding, and it helps keep your current supporters energized. If suicide data are about a local subgroup of interest (e.g., immigrants) are not available, look for national data on the group and then consult general data about suicides in your area. 

To get an even clearer sense of the suicide problem in your community, you can build partnerships to access other data sources or work with partner organizations to create a system for collecting new information. It is important to set up your surveillance (data collection) systems and partnerships to continue after your grant ends so that you can keep accessing this important information. Other more informal data sources, such as needs assessments, stakeholder interviews, and focus groups, can supplement surveillance data and inform questions that are asked in quantitative instruments. 

For more, see website section Finding and Using Data

Core Competencies 

  • You identify multilevel data sources (e.g., national, state, tribal, community) and use this information regularly to guide program priorities and directions (e.g., populations, settings, risk and/or protective factors to address). 
  • You consider qualitative and quantitative data sources and supplement formal surveillance data with other information gathering. 
  • You establish partnerships with key sources of local data (e.g., your medical examiner, coroner, hospital) to ensure regular access to information, improve data usefulness, and support collection of new data as needed. 
  • You regularly review data on related factors and health issues (e.g., substance abuse, violence) and incorporate them into program planning. 
  • You communicate important data to stakeholders to sustain their support. 

How Your SPRC Prevention Specialist Can Help 

Your Prevention Specialist can: 

  • Help you identify up-to-date national, state, or local data sources through data resource sheets, other online resources, or individual consultation. 
  • Suggest other kinds of data that might give you a fuller picture of the problem in your area. 
  • Help you when there is no hard data relating to your population of concern by strategizing with you about who to partner with to collect such information and how to develop written agreements with them about protecting, sharing, and using the data. 
  • Provide you with guidelines if you decide to use focus groups, key informant interviews, or surveys to learn more about the situation in your community. 
  • Strategize with you about how to approach coroners, medical examiners, and hospitals if you are not getting timely, accurately coded information about suicide deaths and injuries from them. Your Program Specialist can also put you in touch with others who have tackled similar problems. 
  • Offer resources and consultation on telling a compelling story with your data so that grant-makers, legislators, and other key champions will support your efforts before, during, and after your grant.