Suicide Prevention/Intervention (SPI)—An Overview

  • A national strategy for suicide prevention developed by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services includes an objective to provide training on suicide prevention and intervention (SPI) to all mental health professionals, including social workers; each state developed a suicide prevention plan that included professional training as part of this (USDHHS, 2001).
  • The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, signed in 2004 and subsequently reauthorized, has provided funding through SAMHSA for targeted suicide prevention activities; this is the source for the DPH funds received by BUSSW.
  • Mass DPH is particularly concerned about reaching social work professionals;  nationally, social workers number more than 500,000 and are now the leading providers of mental health services in the United States (Olfson, Marcus, Druss & Pincus, 2002).
  • In general, social work research on SPI is limited (Feldman & Freedenthal, 2006; Joe & Neidermeier, 2006).
  • Additionally, little is known about the content or quality of social work education on SPI; no systematic studies to date (Ruth, Sasportas, Beville & Muroff, 2008).
  • The only national survey of social workers on SPI found that 93% of respondents had worked with suicidal clients, but only 21.2% had received formal training in their MSW programs; some 67.4% indicated their training in SPI had been inadequate (Feldman & Freedenthal, 2006).