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Community Coalitions for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention

Community Science and its subcontractor (Prevention Institute) worked with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to develop two white papers. One paper examines ways to promote collaborative practices between the adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and youth suicide-prevention fields in identifying, assessing, building resilience in, and preventing suicide of youth exposed to ACEs. The other paper describes the conditions under which coalitions can be successful in efforts to promote mental health and prevent suicide. The findings and recommendations presented in these studies were informed by a systematic review of the literature, individual interviews with subject-matter experts, and panel discussions. For the first study, the invited panel was composed of experts in the fields of ACEs and suicide prevention. For the second study, the panel consisted of coalition leaders and community practitioners engaged in community-based collaborative efforts to prevent suicide and promote mental health.

Related to the collaboration between child trauma and suicide prevention fields, our study findings yielded overarching themes that can be used to guide approaches of work at the intersection of these two fields. Chief among them is the recognition across systems that there is a need for greater multisector collaboration between the ACEs and suicide-prevention systems because these issues are multifaceted and complex and benefit most from a multisystem approach. Findings also reveal a need for more equitable approaches to preventing, assessing, and treating ACEs and suicide because these issues manifest differently in marginalized communities because of unequal systems and conditions, including additional layers of adversity (e.g., racism, sexism, social marginalization, and economic deprivation). Finally, our findings led to recommendations on creating a continuum of care to prevent, assess, and treat ACEs and suicide risk through the lens of the social-ecological model that involves a comprehensive set of interventions, actions, and approaches.

Our findings for the inquiry on how coalitions can successfully promote mental health and prevent suicide led to the development of a guiding framework to aid community coalitions in conceptualizing their design and function to achieve the greatest impact. We also identified best practices and lessons learned that can bolster the power, effectiveness, and sustainability of community coalitions in this space, specifically as they relate to engaging the community, understanding community contextual factors, addressing equity, and evaluating outcomes.

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