The Zero Suicide Model, sometimes called the “Suicide Safer Care Model,” is a set of strategies and tools for suicide prevention in health and behavioral health care systems.
The Tompkins County Legislature on July 17, 2018 unanimously passed a resolution to support the Zero Suicide Model, calling on local healthcare and behavioral healthcare providers to follow the model’s systematic clinical approach to preventing suicides. A month earlier, the Zero Suicide Model was adopted by the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition.
Seven healthcare providers in Tompkins County have stepped up to be “Zero Suicide Champions”:
- Cayuga Medical Center
- Tompkins County Mental Health Services
- Alcohol & Drug Council of Tompkins County
- Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service
- Cornell Health of Cornell University
- Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca
- Cayuga Health Partners
Timeline of the Zero Suicide initiative in Tompkins County:
April 17, 2017: Community mental health stakeholders representing 18 organizations adopted The Watershed Declaration, calling suicide a “serious public health concern” and pledging to intensify suicide prevention efforts in Ithaca and Tompkins County.
June 7, 2017: Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick issued a proclamation in support of The Watershed Declaration, a commitment by local mental health stakeholders to intensify efforts to prevent suicide in the community.
July 31, 2017: More than 40 local mental health leaders launched the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition at a day-long working meeting held in Ithaca.
September 5, 2017: The Tompkins County Legislature proclaimed September 2017 to be “The Watershed Declaration Month” in support of intensified suicide prevention efforts in the community.
March 27, 2018: The Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition took concrete steps toward the adoption of the Zero Suicide Model for local suicide prevention, advancing a strategic plan to guide suicide prevention policies and practices in the community and appointing a coordination committee.
June 18, 2018: The Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition voted to recommend the Zero Suicide Model for healthcare providers as a countywide suicide prevention initiative.
July 17, 2018: The Tompkins County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution to support the Zero Suicide Model, calling on local healthcare and behavioral healthcare providers to follow the model’s systematic clinical approach to preventing suicides.
2018-19: Seven local healthcare providers declared themselves “Zero Suicide Champions” and commenced with internal efforts to implement the model. The organizations pledged to report back to the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition in 2019 on their progress.
Zero Suicide argues that suicides can be prevented by closing cracks in healthcare systems—that “suicide deaths for individuals under care within health and behavioral health systems are preventable.”
Zero Suicide means making suicide prevention a core responsibility of healthcare. Specifically, this entails a systematic clinical approach in healthcare systems—training staff, screening for suicide ideation, utilizing evidence-based interventions, mandating continuous quality improvement, treating suicidality as a presenting problem—and not simply relying on the heroic efforts of crisis staff and individual clinicians.
As the Suicide Prevention Resource Center puts it: “The programmatic approach of Zero Suicide is based on the realization that suicidal individuals often fall through multiple cracks in a fragmented and sometimes distracted health care system, and on the premise that a systematic approach to quality improvement is necessary.”
Zero Suicide is at the heart of the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, released by the U.S. Surgeon General and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. The NSSP’s Goal 8 is to “promote suicide prevention as a core component of healthcare services.” Goal 9 is to “promote and implement effective clinical and professional practices for assessing and treating those at risk for suicidal behaviors.”
Zero Suicide is also explicitly embraced by New York State’s Suicide Prevention Plan 2016–17, entitled 1,700 Too Many. Implementing Zero Suicide in health and behavioral healthcare settings is the first pillar of the suicide prevention strategy outlined in the plan. The second pillar is to “create and strengthen suicide safer communities.”
To assist healthcare organizations in implementing the seven fundamentals of Zero Suicide, SPRC established the Zero Suicide project offering online resources such as an organizational self-study, implementation toolkits, readings, and webinars, and an offline Zero Suicide Academy providing two-day trainings for healthcare leadership.
The New York State Office of Mental Health operates the New York Academy for Suicide Safer Care, which offers a 9-12 month program of webinars and coaching calls for organizations seeking to raise their standard of suicide care.
Watch the videos featuring presentations on the Zero Suicide Model by Michael Hogan, a developer of the model, who served as New York State Mental Health Commissioner (2007–2012), Ohio Department of Mental Health Director (1991–2007) and Connecticut Mental Health Commissioner (1987–1991).
Michael Hogan, “Zero Suicide in Health and Behavioral Health Care” (2015) [VIEW VIDEO]
Michael Hogan, “Zero Suicide in Health Care” (2014) [VIEW VIDEO]
Here are more resources related to the Zero Suicide Model:
“Report on the Zero Suicide Model In Tompkins County,” The Sophie Fund (March 26, 2018)
“Zero Suicide: Providing Suicide Safer Care in New York,” Statewide Grand Rounds Continuing Medical Education, presentation by Jay Carruthers, MD, Director, NYS Suicide Prevention Office; Michael Hogan, PhD, former NYS Mental Health Commissioner; Sigrid Pechenik, PsyD, Associate Director, NYS Suicide Prevention Office; April 20, 2016 [Listen or Download]
“Detecting and Treating Suicide Ideation in All Settings,” The Joint Commission Sentinel Event Alert Issue 56, February 24, 2016
“How We Dramatically Reduced Suicide,” New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst, April 20, 2016
Click on booklet to download Brief Guide to the Zero Suicide Model PDF
[If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.]