The University of Nebraska Public Policy Center is celebrating 25 years in policy and research. We have collaborated with many partners to bring about real-world solutions in our communities. As a university-wide, multidisciplinary research and outreach unit, we are committed to addressing complex issues by linking academic research, stakeholder perspectives, and practical experience through innovative and creative solutions.
A primary focus is suicide prevention and working with schools and community members to reduce rates of suicide by promoting prevention and postvention policies through trainings, educational materials, marketing campaigns, and handbooks for developing school suicide policies.
Here’s a highlight of some of the work that has resulted from these partnerships:
As part of a five-year GLS Suicide Prevention Grant received by the Public Policy Center (PPC), staff are working with Region V Systems and the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) to reduce rates of youth suicide by promoting prevention and postvention policies. This includes a special emphasis on southeast Nebraska’s 16-county area addressing documented public health data recording a high suicide rate. Center staff work with the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Lancaster County and the State Suicide Prevention Coalition sponsoring activities to promote messages regarding suicide prevention. The PPC has sponsored two Zero Suicide Academies with the Educational Development Center Zero Suicide Institute (ZSI) to facilitate training for 19 teams to implement safer suicide care for their organizations and agencies around the state.
The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE), in collaboration with the Public Policy Center (PPC), released two updated suicide prevention resource guides and a handbook for developing school suicide policies and procedures as part of the Nebraska Youth Suicide Prevention Project. The newly revised guide for parents has been accessed or downloaded 2,741 times since its August 2022 release. The resource guide for schools has been accessed or downloaded 8,708 times since its May 2022 release. A Nebraska Handbook for Developing School Suicide Prevention Policies and Procedures has also been accessed or downloaded 1,842 times since its November 2022 release. A Youth, School, and Families Suicide Prevention brochure was revised and is being translated into seven languages to be shared across the state. A Lethal Means Safety brochure was also created in late 2022 and is currently being translated and shared across the state. In addition to these materials, the PPC manages a social media campaign promoting youth suicide prevention awareness to reach youth audiences with messages and resources. Over the 2022 calendar year, this project's social media presence included 413 posts shared across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts with over 39,000 impressions from over 11,000 users. Learn more at YouthSuicideprevention.Nebraska.edu.
The PPC created and manages the online course “Building a Suicide-Safe School Community.” Educators and school administrators complete this course each year as part of their training on suicide prevention. This course has resulted in more than 31,000 educators and staff completing the training in school districts throughout Nebraska during the 2020-2021 school year, 6,213 during the 2021-2022 school year, and 7,562 completing the course during the 2022-2023 school year.
The “Nebraska Needs You” statewide suicide prevention campaign is working with suicide prevention groups to raise awareness and help people know the warning signs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services organized a Suicide Prevention Stakeholder meeting to develop a social media and education campaign. While it began as a campaign aimed at rural youth, Nebraska Extension and the Public Policy Center (PPC) suggested using the Nebraska Needs You model on a larger scale, through expanding its reach to all Nebraskans. The PPC helped make connections, get permission from Extension to use the campaign, gave advice, enhanced former campaign messaging, and provided sample content. Learn more at extension.unl.edu.
The project had 1,333,000 impressions on radio with 2,914 messages on 47 stations; it had 994,697 impressions on Snapchat, 5,745,350 impressions on Google Display, 384,043 impressions on YouTube, and 372,766 impressions on TikTok. Partners for the project include Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Division of Behavioral Health, The Kim Foundation, Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Nebraska Chapter, NAMI Nebraska, Bryan Health, CHI Health, and the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center.
The Public Policy Center (PPC) is part of several new efforts to prevent suicide in Nebraska. One effort is adopting 988 as an emergency line for those experiencing behavioral health or mental health emergencies. The PPC received federal and private funding via the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to help plan for Nebraska’s implementation of the 988 system, including the hotline run by Boys Town, mobile crisis response teams across the state, and crisis facility development. Learn more at DHHS.ne.gov.
The Nebraska Department of Education and Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services partnered with PPC to create and distribute youth focused informational posters in schools around Nebraska highlighting the 988 helpline. These posters were printed and distributed to schools all across Nebraska and were made available on various partner websites. A set of 11 of the posters were mailed to each middle and high school in Nebraska (4,794 posters), putting the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline information in front of every Nebraska middle school and high school student.