Chicago Department of Public Health Launches Suicide Prevention Initiative

May 1, 2024

Free community trainings to launch this month, continue through 2024

CDPH Public Information Office

Updated to reflect revised suicide data

CHICAGO - The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) is launching a new suicide prevention initiative that will provide free trainings to interested residents as well as the City's workforce to build skills in recognizing warning signs of suicide risk and connecting someone at risk of suicide to the help they need.

Suicide is a serious public health problem that affects people of all ages. Suicide and suicide attempts also have a deep impact on the health and well-being of friends, loved ones, co-workers, and the community. CDPH is taking a broad, community-wide approach to reducing risk for suicidal behavior by offering free “Question. Persuade. Refer.” (QPR) Gatekeeper trainings. QPR is an evidence-based approach that enlists and trains everyday people from all walks of life to recognize suicide warning signs, take immediate steps to mitigate risk of a suicide attempt, and make referrals to professional care.

“My administration has been committed since day one to expanding resources to help residents and communities deal with the effects of trauma,” said Mayor Brandon Johnson. “While we are focusing broadly on community investment, educational equality and opportunities for youth, we are also committed to expanding a range of mental health services to support individuals and families.”

CDPH is kicking off Mental Health Awareness Month by offering free QPR Gatekeeper trainings in the communities with the highest suicide mortality rates in each region of Chicago. In addition, CDPH will train the city’s workforce, starting with CDPH staff, and employees of Chicago Public Libraries.

“CDPH is proud to be offering broad trainings in suicide prevention as part of our overall behavioral health expansion,” said CDPH Commissioner Olusimbo ‘Simbo’ Ige, MD, MPH. “Public health is all about prevention at the population level, and research tells us that a systemic approach to behavioral health and community well-being can help prevent some of the factors that lead to suicidal ideation and behavior in the first place.”

In 2023, there were 220 suicide deaths among Chicago residents. Seventy-five percent of suicide deaths were among males and 25 percent among females. The largest proportion of all suicide deaths occurred among residents aged 45-64 (31%). While suicide occurs among people of all race/ethnicities, the highest proportion of all suicide deaths were among non-Latinx white residents (52%), while non-Latinx Black and Latinx residents made up 25% and 20%, respectively. Two percent of suicides were among non-Latinx Asians. Emergency room visits for suicide attempts were twice as high among non-Latinx Blacks as compared to non-Latinx whites. Concerning trends in Chicago suicides emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, including an increase in suicides among older adults (65+ years) and among non-Latinx Black individuals.

In response, CDPH has built its first QPR Instructor Cohort, which consists of 55 public health professionals from across departments who come from different walks of life and are deeply connected to community. CDPH QPR-Trained Instructors engaged in a 15-hour certification process to become equipped to reduce suicide risk by recognizing the signs of suicide, intervening, and linking people to services that help prevent suicide. CDPH Instructors are prepared with knowledge and resources to serve as gatekeepers themselves and conduct suicide prevention training to build more QPR-Trained gatekeepers in the community. The initiative is building capacity among the city’s workforce to join together with the common cause of preventing suicide among Chicagoans.

Identifying and assisting individuals at risk for suicide is a key component of suicide prevention. QPR Gatekeeper training increases the number of people within the community who can support and respond during critical moments when someone is struggling emotionally or in crisis. Broad community trainings provide unique opportunities to address mental health concerns on a community level, encourage open conversations about suicide, and raise awareness about available crisis mental health resources in Chicago.

Trainings are 1.5 hours long and will be held in-person from 4:30p.m. - 6:00p.m. at the following local Chicago Public Library branches and Chicago Park District locations:

  • Mount Greenwood: May 16, Mount Greenwood Public Library
  • Calumet Heights: June 11, Jesse Owens Park
  • Norwood Park: June 27, Roden Branch, Norwood Public Library
  • Edgewater: July 16, Edgewater Public Library
  • Clearing: August 26, Clearing Public Library
  • Chatham: September 10, Whitney M. Young, Jr. Public Library
  • West Garfield: September 26, Legler Regional Public Library

Visit to learn more and register for trainings.

Following these initial trainings, CDPH's Office of Mental Health will continue to offer QPR trainings based on Chicago-specific data on communities and populations that experience higher levels of suicide and suicide-associated risks. Some populations of focus include youth, LGBTQ+ individuals, pregnant and new caregivers, young Black men (ages 18 - 29 years old), and older adults (age 60+). Virtual trainings, and trainings in different languages will be made available.

CDPH reminds everyone to contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline if you are experiencing mental health-related distress or are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support. 988 is confidential, free, and available 24/7/365. To connect with a trained counselor, call or text 988, or chat on the website