Suicide continues to grow as a public health issue in Wisconsin. Among state residents, the suicide rate increased by 40% from 2000-2017. This is an issue associated with tremendous loss that affects individuals, families, and communities across the state. Suicide is also a complex issue, as it involves many factors that can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Such risk factors include mental health and substance use issues, financial difficulties, physical illness, social isolation, childhood and historical trauma, and ease of access to the methods people use in suicide attempts. These risks can be decreased and suicide can be prevented, though support is needed to help inform prevention efforts in the state.

Executive Summary

Suicide in Wisconsin: Impact and Response seeks to help inform efforts through a two-part report. By first presenting in-depth data, stakeholders will gain insight about the people and populations in Wisconsin who experience self-harm injuries, as well as suicidal thoughts, behaviors, deaths, and associated risk factors. The report then presents the Wisconsin Suicide Prevention Plan, a comprehensive approach to reduce suicide attempts and deaths. Suicide in Wisconsin: Impact and Response updates two previous reports, The Burden of Suicide (2014) and the Wisconsin Suicide Prevention Strategy (2015).

The Wisconsin Suicide Prevention Plan was produced in collaboration with the Prevent Suicide Wisconsin Steering Committee. Prevent Suicide Wisconsin is a statewide public-private partnership that was formed over a decade ago when stakeholders identified the need to create an umbrella organization for suicide prevention efforts in Wisconsin.

The plan consists of four strategies:

  1. Increase and Enhance Protective Factors. This involves promoting healthy communities by increasing social connectedness for all members, as well as supporting efforts to reduce access to lethal means by people who are at acute risk of suicide (such as through safe storage of medications and firearms).

  2. Increase Access to Care for At-Risk Populations. This includes supporting innovative ways to expand access to health care services, including behavioral health, through technologies (such as telehealth), peer-led support services, and stigma reduction.

  3. Implement Best Practices for Prevention in Health Care Systems. This means promoting a systematic Zero Suicide approach to suicide prevention in health and behavioral health care organizations, which includes implementation of evidence-based tools for screening, assessment, treatment, and follow-up care.

  4. Improve Surveillance of Suicide and Evaluation of Prevention Programs. This includes working to improve data collection systems to enhance the capacity for investigating and reporting suicide deaths, as well as expanding the ability of prevention programs to evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts.

Suicide prevention is best accomplished through comprehensive efforts that make use of data in conjunction with evidence-based and best practices for prevention, while also reflecting the needs and cultures of our local communities. For these efforts to be effective, it will take coordination and cooperation from every sector of society, including government, public health, health care, employers, education, business, media, and community groups. Many people and organizations in the state have already been leading the way in this work. Suicide in Wisconsin: Impact and Response represents another step in that direction.