Monday, August 1, 2016

Zero Suicide

Zero Suicide, is that even possible?   Dr. Bart Andrews, a friend of mine and a Zero Suicide Faculty member, states “what number would you be ok with?” 

My work in suicide prevention has primarily been in organizing suicide prevention conferences, teaching Mental Health First Aid, and providing other trainings.  I believed these things to be important and beneficial, and I still do.  However, I believe Zero Suicide can be a game changer for many reasons and here are my top ten reasons I love Zero Suicide.

  1. It is a systems approach – it doesn’t rely on one person. The whole health system is transformed with a focus on policies and protocols using proven interventions and treatments for people at risk for suicide. 
  2.  It reaches people who would often be overlooked by conventional suicide prevention and intervention methods. 
  3. There is an easy-to-understand framework and guidance available from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) to implement the life-saving system changes. 
  4. The framework includes providing support to both the patient and to the clinicians doing this difficult work to increase engagement reduce burnout.  
  5.  Leaders in the zero suicide movement are transparent about what worked for them and what didn’t. They say “Please contact me if I can help in anyway”. They also share resources openly and freely.  It’s about saving lives.   
  6.  Places that are using the Zero Suicide approach are seeing success. 
  7.  Even though there is a framework, it still allows for each agency to tailor their approach to what works for their specifics such as number of offices, number of staff, number of clients, rural versus city, and other differences.
  8.  It changes a culture of an agency, hospital or other system, by increasing education and awareness of suicide.  
  9. There is a ripple effect.  Staff trained through Zero Suicide can become comfortable and even respected for their lived experience.
  10.  When staff learn these interventions and awareness, it doesn’t just stay at work, they take it home to their family, their friends, their neighbors and their community.

I believe the Zero Suicide approach can be instrumental in reducing the number of suicides in our country as well as reducing the stigma (or should I say discrimination) that individuals with mental illness and/or suicidal thoughts face.

So what can you do as members of society?    I would encourage everyone to demand that their hospitals and medical offices get trained and adopt a Zero Suicide framework.  I would mandate all mental health agencies to implement a Zero Suicide framework.   If every hospital and mental health agency was trained in and used the principles of Zero Suicide we would see a dramatic reduction in suicides.  

As citizens of this country, I would ask you to email your representatives to help provide funding for Zero Suicide and to make it mandatory for systems of care to have this training.  Here is a link to an example letter:   Sample letter (you can find your states information at

It is hard for us to connect with human suffering if we are not directly affected. It may help to remember that it could be your family member’s life that is saved or mine.   But if the basic humanity of saving a life isn’t enough, the financial aspects of reducing suicides and suicide attempts will reduce cost to our economy due to years of productivity lost to death, sick days and absenteeism, and reduced work quality.  

I know that the consumers I have talked to about Zero Suicide love the idea that our agency is taking one more step to help protect them.  They like knowing that we care about them and that their life is important to us.

So for me, I will continue to provide traditional suicide prevention and education, but I am definitely 100% on board with Zero Suicide and I believe that the systematic changes we are making for Zero Suicide will save lives.
Please let your voice be heard in support of Zero Suicide.

You can find more information at

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