What is Zero Suicide?

The Zero Suicide methodology is a discrete set of tools and processes that work together to reduce deaths by suicide in care within health and behavioural health systems. It represents both a bold goal and an aspirational challenge that clinicians and others are wanting to embed in their practice and the teams that they work within.

For care systems, this approach can sometimes appear challenging but really it truly reaffirms a commitment:
  • To consumer/patient safety, the most fundamental responsibility of any care system
  • To the safety and support of clinical and community based staff, who do the demanding work of treating and supporting suicidal patients.

Zero Suicide is more than just an aspiration. It is based on the realisation that suicidal individuals often fall through the cracks in a sometimes fragmented and distracted care and justice systems. A systematic approach to quality improvement in these settings is both available and necessary.

The challenge and implementation of Zero Suicide cannot be borne solely by the practitioners providing clinical care. Zero Suicide requires a system/community-wide approach to improve outcomes and close gaps to keep people safe.

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 behavioural health care systems to adopt:

  1. 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.
  2. Train – Develop a competent, confident, and caring workforce.
  3. Identify – Systematically identify and assess suicide risk among people receiving and in care.
  4. 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.
  5. Treat – Use effective, evidence-based supports and treatments that directly target suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
  6. Transition – Provide continuous contact and support, especially after acute care.
  7. 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 for us all to relentlessly pursue a reduction in suicide and improve the care for those who seek help.

The Zero Suicide Toolkit provides a guide to how organisations can start on a pathway of implementing a Zero Suicide methodology in their practice. This has been proven across hundreds of workplaces globally and is increasingly being applied across health systems in Australasia.

Suicide Prevention Resources - FREE to download

John Henden facilitated a series of workshops on preventing suicide, the solution focused approach in New Zealand in 2018. He has kindly given us permission to use the slides he used in his workshops, and some useful resources.

John Henden has a background in psychology, is a qualified counselor and a member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy. For over 20 years he worked within the NHS both as a clinician and in management roles before establishing his training and consultancy firm. He regularly presents on a range of solution focused topics in different international forums, and has received particular acclaim for his work on solution focused suicide prevention and intervention.

John is an author, and his best-selling book ‘Preventing Suicide: The Solution Focused Approach‘, is now into its second edition.


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