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Suicide is a leading cause of death in Kentucky. With September being National Suicide Prevention Month, it is a good opportunity to remind everyone that suicide is preventable.

From offering Question, Persuade, Respond (QPR) gatekeeper trainings to collecting data to help with prevention efforts, the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC) features multiple projects which follow trends in suicide and identify risk factors that lead to self-harm.

“The Kentucky Violent Death Reporting System (KYVDRS), which is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the National Violent Death Reporting System, collects information on all violent deaths (suicides, homicides, unintentional gun deaths, and deaths of undetermined intent) that occur in the state of Kentucky,” said Jacqueline Seals, DrPH, KYVDRS Program Manager. “The VDRS program is considered the gold standard for data related to violent death by the CDC. Additionally, we work closely with the state suicide prevention team housed in the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Development and Intellectual Disabilities (DBHDID) and provide them with actionable data for prevention efforts throughout the state.”

According to data from the KYVDRS, in 2020 the number of suicide deaths in the state increased slightly from the 2016–2019 yearly average, while the number of emergency department (ED) visits and inpatient hospitalization encounters for nonfatal self-harm decreased.

Seals said the current prevention focus is on youth and young adult suicides.

Data from KYVDRS show that suicides by persons age 24 and younger rose in 2020 by 8% over the average from 2016 to 2019. Increases occurred in every category (ages 10 to 14, 15 to 19, and 20 to 24).

Seals said there is also an increased risk of suicide for persons of color and other minority groups.

The Kentucky Violence and Injury Prevention Program (KVIPP) — which, like KYVDRS, operates as part of KIPRC — is also working with the DBHDID and the Kentucky Safety Prevention Alignment Network to provide QPR trainings and support the Crisis Text Line.

“QPR helps teach folks to know what to say, when to say it, and what to do,” said Ashley Bush, DrPH, principal investigator of KVIPP. “QPR training helps to provide the general population and front-line professionals with knowledge and skills to engage in suicide prevention behaviors.”

These interventions include providing caring/emotional support, listening empathetically and actively, imparting hope, and other steps to reduce risk factors and strengthen protective factors in regards to self-harm/suicide.

“Though it is not intended to serve as a form of counseling or treatment, QPR is intended to offer hope through action,” Bush said.

The next virtual QPR training will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 22, from 1-3 p.m. For more information or to register, visit

The Crisis Text Line awareness campaign is to support people at-risk of suicide and self-harm that are not traditionally reached by standard crisis hotlines by texting “KY” to 741741.

 “Suicide is difficult to talk about, but research shows that many of those who attempt suicide show warning signs of their intention to harm themselves in the final days,” Bush said. “Understanding these warning signs, which range from indirect to situational, help increase our ability to recognize a loved one’s cry for help. Once we recognize their call for help, we can ask the right questions, listen, offer hope through persuasion, and connect them with appropriate mental health resources, including treatment referrals. Sometimes, we simply need to slow down, take time to actively listen, and be kind, as everyone is fighting a battle that we may know anything about.”

For more information on KYVDRS, visit

KIPRC is a unique partnership between the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) and the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health. KIPRC serves both as an academic injury prevention research center and as the DPH’s designee or “bona fide agent” for statewide injury prevention and control.