What is Zero Suicide?
Zero Suicide is a key concept of the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, a priority of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance), a project of Education Development Center's Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), and supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The foundational belief of Zero Suicide is that suicide deaths for individuals under care within health and behavioral health systems are preventable. It presents both a bold goal and an aspirational challenge.
For health care systems, this approach represents a commitment:
- To patient safety, the most fundamental responsibility of health care
- To the safety and support of clinical staff, who do the demanding work of treating and supporting suicidal patients
The programmatic approach of Zero Suicide is based on the realization that suicidal individuals often fall through cracks in a fragmented, and sometimes distracted, health care system. A systematic approach to quality improvement in these settings is both available and necessary.
The challenge and implementation of a Zero Suicide approach cannot be borne solely by the practitioners providing clinical care. Zero Suicide requires a system-wide approach to improve outcomes and close gaps.
Essential Elements of Suicide Care
After researching successful approaches to suicide reduction, the Action Alliance’s Clinical Care and Intervention Task Force identified seven essential elements of suicide care for health and behavioral health care systems to adopt:
- Lead – Create a leadership-driven, safety-oriented culture committed to dramatically reducing suicide among people under care. Include survivors of suicide attempts and suicide loss in leadership and planning roles.
- Train – Develop a competent, confident, and caring workforce.
- Identify – Systematically identify and assess suicide risk among people receiving care.
- Engage – Ensure every individual has a pathway to care that is both timely and adequate to meet his or her needs. Include collaborative safety planning and restriction of lethal means.
- Treat – Use effective, evidence-based treatments that directly target suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
- Transition – Provide continuous contact and support, especially after acute care.
- Improve – Apply a data-driven quality improvement approach to inform system changes that will lead to improved patient outcomes and better care for those at risk.
Zero Suicide is a call to relentlessly pursue a reduction in suicide and improve the care for those who seek help.
Zero Suicide Advisory Group
The Zero Suicide Advisory Group (ZSAG) provides expert guidance to the Zero Suicide Initiative. Participants include former members of the Clinical Care and Intervention Task Force as well as professionals from various health care sectors.
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