TSPN History

TSPN History


Jerry and Elsie Weyrauch found the Suicide Prevention Advocacy Network/United States of America (SPAN/USA) in response to their daughter’s suicide. This is considered the start of the contemporary national suicide prevention movement.


Dr. Ken Tullis, a psychiatrist from Memphis, and his wife Madge attend the National Suicide Prevention Conference in Reno, Nevada. Upon their return to Tennessee, they establish a campaign to “SPAN the State of Tennessee in 1998”, developing a Tennessee-based suicide prevention movement.


U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher issues the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Suicide, in which he encourages the development of a national suicide prevention strategy for the entire United States as one of his major objectives.

Subsequently, a panel of mental health experts convened by Dr. Tullis develops the Tennessee Strategy for Suicide Prevention, a response to each of the fifteen points in Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Suicide. This document, called the Tennessee Strategy for Suicide Prevention, is submitted for consideration at the statewide Tennessee Suicide Prevention Conference held October 7-8 in Nashville and ultimately ratified by those present.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services formally releases the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention on behalf of the Office of the Surgeon General.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Strategy is presented to state department heads and public sector leaders. Both the public and private sectors symbolically accept responsibility for the Tennessee Strategy.

Participants in the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Conference establish the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, with eight component regional networks established for local action on the Tennessee Strategy for Suicide Prevention. TSPN and the local networks are to be presided over by the operational coordination of an Executive Director and a gubernatorially appointed Advisory Council.


An Intra-State Departmental Group consisting of delegates from state departments and agencies is established to advise the Network on public policy and implement Network objectives at the state department level.

Lakeside Behavioral Health System starts the first inpatient suicide prevention program in U.S., under the guidance of Dr. Tullis.

TSPN begins publication of a quarterly newsletter and its first brochures on suicide risk within teens and older adults.

TSPN certifies 24 members as trainers in the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training curriculum.


TSPN co-organizes the Suicide and the Black Church Conference held in Memphis, the first nationwide event dedicated to the subject of African-American suicide within the faith community context. The Network has been a part of every follow-up event since.

TSPN develops and adopts a statewide youth suicide prevention plan, and participates in Project Tennessee’s creation of a school-based suicide prevention curriculum.

Members of TSPN present a signed banner following the first Suicide Prevention Awareness Day event in 2003.


TSPN’s promotes passage of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act of 2004. Upon its passage, it offers funding for community- and college-based youth suicide projects across the country.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline goes into operation this year, and TSPN is one of its earliest and strongest proponents.

TSPN publishes its first Status of Suicide in Tennessee report, which will later become an annual publication of the Network.

The Network collects the first Suicide Prevention Awareness Month proclamations from city and county governments.

TSPN trains 40 members as instructors in the “Question, Persuade, and Refer” (QPR) suicide prevention curriculum, which will eventually become the Network’s primary mechanism of suicide prevention training.

The cover of the first Status of Suicide in Tennessee report.


The agency is acquired by the Mental Health Association of Middle Tennessee, a merger which opened TSPN to additional resources and contacts under the National Mental Health Association (now Mental Health America) umbrella.

TSPN submits an application to SAMHSA’s State-Sponsored Youth Suicide Prevention and Early Intervention Program on behalf of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities and is accepted into the first group of grantees selected. Acceptance into the program allows for the establishment of the Tennessee Lives Count (TLC) Project, a statewide early intervention/prevention project intended to reduce suicides and suicide attempts for youth aged 10-24 within an emphasis on gatekeeper training.

TSPN’s newsletter is re-launched as a monthly feature, entitled the TSPN Call to Action.

Dr. Ken Tullis presents at TSPN’s annual Advisory Council retreat in 2005.


TSPN, along with the state of Tennessee itself, receives the SPAN-USA Allies for Action Award in recognition of its suicide prevention efforts, the first time the award is ever given to a collective body rather than an individual.

The first of the “Love Never Dies” memorial quilts is dedicated in order to personalize and humanize the problem of suicide.

TSPN’s Southeast Region establishes a postvention team in the Chattanooga area, with members on call by local law enforcement in the event of a suicide death. It is the first such group of its kind ever documented.


The Network proves influential in the passage of the Jason Flatt Act of 2007, which mandates the inclusion of two hours of youth suicide prevention training for all public school staff in Tennessee. At the time of its passage, it is the most intensive youth suicide prevention education law in the nation, and it is later replicated in several other states.

A grant from the Tennessee Department of Health finances the recruitment and education of additional suicide prevention instructors.


The Network observes the ten-year anniversary of the national suicide prevention movement with a symposium held in September and the 10-Tenn Challenge contest, a competition between TSPN regional networks to develop the most innovative and far-reaching suicide prevention activity.

TSPN begins providing logistical support to Fort Campbell’s Suicide Prevention Program, establishing connections to mental health and social service entities within the U.S. Army and the base community.

The cover of the program from the ten-year anniversary symposium held in 2008.


TLC concludes its first grant cycle, having provided training to thousands of people across the state. In its next grant cycle, it focuses on training for staff of juvenile justice facilities. The outcomes of this grant cycle will ultimately lead to the development of Shield of Care, an evidence-based suicide prevention and intervention training curriculum for juvenile justice staff.

TSPN publishes its Older Adult Suicide Prevention Plan published, outlining strategies for preventing suicide within this high-risk age group.

The Network begins its emergency room brochure holder project, providing literature from TSPN and partner agencies to emergency departments across the state.

TSPN stages its Suicide Prevention Awareness and Educational Event series across the state during September.


As part of TSPN’s Election 2010 project, major candidates in this year’s governor’s race provide information on their plans for suicide prevention and mental health during Advisory Council meetings. Among those participating were Democratic candidate Kim McMillan and Republican candidates Mike McWherter and Zach Wamp.

TSPN serves as an advisor to the Kentucky Suicide Prevention Group (KSPG) in the development of two suicide prevention bills that were ultimately signed into law by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear. They include a requirement for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to post suicide prevention awareness and training information on its website, a mandate for the provision of suicide prevention awareness information to all middle and high school students at the start of each school year, and a requirement for principals, guidance counselors, and teachers to complete a minimum of two hours of instruction in suicide prevention each school year.

TSPN launches an effort to post suicide prevention messaging in front of the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge after several high-profile suicide deaths at the site.


The Network establishes its Substance Abuse Outreach Program to provide suicide prevention training for professionals in the substance abuse treatment field.

The Network establishes its Substance Abuse Outreach Program to provide suicide prevention training for professionals in the substance abuse treatment field.

A joint resolution from the Tennessee General Assembly honoring TSPN’s tenth anniversary was presented on the Senate floor on March 30 and presented at the 10th Anniversary Symposium held April 29 in Nashville.

An article on the workings and achievements of the Tennessee Lives Count (TLC) appears in the online newsletter of Behavioral Healthcare, one of the leading publications for mental health professionals.

This billboard was one of several erected on side streets throughout Nashville and Memphis during the latter half of 2011 and into 2012. TSPN worked with local Lifeline call centers to track calls generated by the billboards and hits to the URL dedicated to the project.


As part of its “Pledge to Prevent Suicide” project, TSPN collects over 2,000 signatures from members of the public voicing their support for consistent funding of suicide prevention activities in the state of Tennessee.

The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network establishes a partnership with the Dennis H. Jones Living Well Network (a division of Methodist Healthcare) for wide-ranging outreach project for churches in the Memphis area. The project includes a website which offers assessment tools for mental illness, substance abuse, and suicide prevention, as well as a local information hotline.


TSPN rolls out its Gun Safety Project, a statewide project intended to address firearm suicide deaths in Tennessee.

The Network reinvents itself on social media with a regularly updated Facebook pageTwitter feed, and the blog “TSPN on Tumblr”. It also creates the TSPN App, a readily available reference for locally available suicide prevention resources, available on iTunes.

TSPN launches Out of the Shadows, a newsletter for survivors of suicide, and can you hear me?, a publication for survivors of suicide attempts. Each edition of these bimonthly newsletters includes articles and poetry associated with the grief and recovery process, and also artwork from various sources. Priority is given to content submitted by people within the state of Tennessee.

The logo for TSPN’s Zero Suicide Initiative was based on designs freehanded by members of the Zero Suicide Initiative Task Force, then refined by the marketing team at Centerstone.


TSPN worked with the Jared’s Keepers Foundationthe Jason Foundation, and the Tennessee chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to promote the “Jared’s Law” expansion to the Jason Flatt Act of 2007 within the Tennessee General Assembly, culminating in Governor Bill Haslam signing the bill into law on March 22. Jared’s Law extended previously existing requirements for public school teachers to include all staff within Tennessee public schools. Additionally, the law authorized the Tennessee Department of Education to establish a model policy to help school districts create their own policies. This model was developed in consultation with TSPN, AFSP, the Office of Crisis Services and Suicide Prevention within the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Jason Foundation, Inc., JFI, Inc., and other agencies.

A webinar sponsored by the Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention (ICRC-S) spotlighted TSPN as an example of a successful statewide suicide prevention program. “Evaluation of the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN): A Research Collaboration among the TSPN, the Centerstone Research Institute (CRI), and the Tennessee Department of Health” took place on March 18, with mental health and suicide prevention professionals from across the United States participating. The presentation summarized a collaborative research project focused on evaluating the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network facilitated and CRI with the guidance of RTI, analyzing its successes in implementing a statewide suicide prevention strategy. It was the result of over a year of research that included interviews with key Network volunteers. The slides from the webinar as a well as a full audio recording is available on the ICRC-S website.