MHA is a leading voice in suicide prevention efforts throughout the state.

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Suicide Prevention

WI Suicide Data   |   Risk & Protective Factors   |   Impact of Trauma    |    Resources

MHA of Wisconsin's Position on the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why

As the state leader for developing suicide prevention infrastructure and training, MHA-WI has an important role to play in promoting evidence-based and best practices for suicide prevention. This extends into the realm of media messaging. The popular Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, has garnered significant popularity among youth and poses a significant risk to those who may themselves be suicidal or who have been bullied or sexually abused. The premise of the show, that one might be able to get back at those who one feels have hurt them by killing oneself is a potentially appealing message to these at-risk youth. The fact that the show includes very few portrayals of individuals demonstrating support for the lead character or modelling appropriate help-seeking can lead those viewing the show to conclude that help will not be available. The graphic portrayal of the lead character’s suicide strongly conflicts with recommended practices for media.

And yet the show remains available for viewing. Therefore it is incumbent upon MHA-WI to utilize our role to educate the general community about both the concerns and the resources available. Shortly after the show aired, consensus talking points were developed by the JED Foundation and SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), two highly reputable organizations in the area of messaging to youth. MHA-WI posted these on the Prevent Suicide Wisconsin website and sent an e-news to the hundreds of individuals who subscribe, informing them about the talking points. The MHA-WI Director of Public Policy also took advantage of an invitation to take part in a WPR broadcast talking about the show and resources available.

While the producers of the show argue that it provides an opportunity to talk about an important topic, they ignore the fact that most people are not very comfortable talking about suicide. MHA-WI believes our most important role is to make sure that individuals across Wisconsin know about the opportunities to obtain education about talking about suicide-primarily through QPR training—by contacting local coalitions in their area. We also believe it is important for parents to know that schools are legally required to educate youth about suicide. Not all schools are doing so. Making parents aware of the resources that the Department of Public Instruction makes available to schools to support this requirement can serve to motivate them to talk with their school principals and school boards about the importance of providing this education. We will never be able to respond to all the messages—either through general media or through social media-- that can put kids at risk of suicide. We need to make sure they are equipped to respond to these and know where and how to access help.

Talking Points for Viewing & Discussing

For a summary of some tips for viewing and discussing the series 13 Reasons Why:

For a more detailed guidance specific to educators, parents and youth see this resource from the National Association of School Psychologists:

For information about Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction resources:

To find a local coalition in your area that might be able to provide training on talking about suicide:

State Suicide Prevention Strategy

The Wisconsin Suicide Prevention Strategy 2015 (WSPS) was unveiled at the annual Prevent Suicide Wisconsin (PSW) conference on April 29th. The new strategy replaces the one that was created in 2002 and is intentionally more targeted to achieve greater impact.

Local suicide prevention coalitions and others interested in suicide prevention are asked to consider how they can align their efforts to this new strategy. Upcoming changes to the PSW website will also align to the WSPS goals and objectives to facilitate access to information and resources.

Access the WSPS 2015 here >


Wisconsin Suicide Data

The Burden of Suicide in Wisconsin 2007-2011 (released 2014)

A joint report by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Mental Health America of Wisconsin

Suicide remains a significant public health problem in Wisconsin. The extraordinary costs of suicide are both economic and emotional. Suicidal behavior imposes a substantial financial burden on the families of decedents and results in lost productivity in the workforce. Moreover, the pain and suffering endured by friends, families, and communities affected by suicide are immeasurable.

The intention of this report is to provide an overview of the burden of suicide in Wisconsin using available data to community members and leaders, health professionals, and other suicide prevention stakeholders at the local and state levels. In addition, this report includes themes for prevention that are based on the analysis of suicide data, which will be incorporated into Wisconsin’s suicide prevention strategy.

Access the Burden of Suicide report here >

Risk and Protective Factors

Risk factors are stressful events, situations, or conditions that exist in a person's life that may increase the likelihood of attempting or dying by suicide. There is no predictive list of a particular set of risk factors that spells imminent danger of suicide. It is important to understand that risk factors DO NOT cause suicide. Risk factors most strongly associated with suicidal behavior include individual, peer/family, community, and society. Download more information.

Protective factors are the positive conditions and personal and social resources that promote resiliency and reduce the potential for youth suicide as well as other high-risk behaviors. It is important to understand that protective factors do not prevent suicide. Protective factors associated with suicidal behavior include individual, peer/family, community, and society. Download more information.

Impact of Trauma

Consumers and practitioners are increasingly recognizing the impact of trauma as a contributing risk factor to mental health disorders and suicide. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study identified how trauma in childhood was correlated with a variety of poorer health outcomes. For more information see the following:

The ACE Study

A Trauma Informed Understanding of Suicidality, a powerpoint by Elizabeth Hudson, Trauma Informed Care Consultant to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (PowerPoint)

National Center for Trauma-Informed Care

Wisconsin's ACE Study

Suicide Prevention Resources

Impact of Suicide on Youth & Families: The Ones We Miss curriculum 

Suicide Prevention Resource Center

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Mental Health Information - Suicide >>, Loss and Grief >>

Survivors Helping Survivors Support groups for those who have lost a loved one to suicide

Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey