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Policy Priority: Systems Change and Firearms Suicide Prevention

With guidance from the top minds in the field and dynamic data modeling, AFSP has identified and prioritized critical areas where suicide risk can be potentially reduced for the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time.

Our four critical areas are firearms, healthcare systems, emergency departments, and corrections systems. Public policies in these areas will support the bold goal of reducing the nation’s annual suicide rate 20% by the year 2025.


Separating suicidal individuals from lethal means (methods) helps to prevent suicide; firearms are highly lethal and are used in over half of all suicide deaths nationally.

  • Support and fund research on firearms and suicide prevention.
  • Promote the creation and distribution of educational materials regarding lethal means and suicide prevention, including safe storage.
  • Educate healthcare professionals about the importance of lethal means counseling in the treatment of individuals experiencing a suicidal crisis.
  • Implement voluntary removal initiatives including temporary transfer exceptions, community storage options, and Voluntary Do-Not-Sell Lists.
  • Implement Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) as a tool to help prevent suicide when voluntary efforts to separate an at-risk individual from a firearm are unsuccessful or impossible and suicide risk is imminent.

Healthcare Systems

AFSP works to advance policies in healthcare systems that will accelerate the acceptance and adoption of risk identification and proven suicide prevention strategies.

  • Promote culturally competent training requirements for healthcare providers regarding best practices in suicide prevention, assessment, treatment, and management.
  • Create funding opportunities for suicide risk screening and assessment in healthcare.
  • Promote safety planning, lethal means counseling, caring contacts, and other best-practice short-term interventions for patients at risk for suicide.

Emergency Departments

Basic screening and interventions can provide a safety net for patients at risk for suicide seen in Emergency Departments (EDs). AFSP is educating emergency medicine providers and collaborating with key accrediting and professional organizations to improve the acceptance and adoption of suicide screening and preventative intervention as the standard in emergency care.

  • Promote training for ED personnel regarding best practices in suicide prevention for individuals at risk for suicide.
  • Create funding opportunities for suicide risk screening and assessment in EDs.

Corrections Systems

AFSP supports screening for and identifying individuals at risk for suicide at key points within corrections systems, such as at entry and exit. Comprehensive care that addresses all aspects of health, including behavioral health, must be delivered to incarcerated populations and individuals within the criminal legal system. 

  • Establish and expand diversionary programs and other initiatives to improve responses to individuals with mental health and/or substance use disorders who come into contact with the criminal legal system.
  • Promote policies that assist with the transition to community care for formerly incarcerated individuals, with the goal of reducing recidivism, supporting public safety, and preventing suicide.
  • Improve data collection and reporting on suicide in correctional facilities.
  • Promote standards that limit the use of solitary confinement and minimize its impact on the mental health of incarcerated individuals, with the goal of ending its use.
  • Expand access to suicide prevention programming in correctional facilities including suicide prevention training for corrections officers.