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.
VIDEO: The Zero Suicide Healthcare Call to Action
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.
VIDEO: Michael Hogan, “Zero Suicide in Health Care”
As its developers put it, “Zero Suicide models what it takes to make a system-wide, organizational commitment to safer suicide care. Zero Suicide is based on the realization that people experiencing suicidal thoughts and urges often fall through the cracks in a sometimes fragmented and distracted health care system. Studies have shown the vast majority of people who died by suicide saw a health care provider in the year prior to their deaths. There is an opportunity for health care systems to make a real difference by transforming how patients are screened and the care they receive.”
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.”
According to the developers, a “Zero-based” mindset in healthcare happens by routinely and consistently embedding evidence-based practices focused on patient safety and offer hope and recovery for people at risk for suicide. “Zero Suicide dismisses the general fatalism about making a dent in the outcomes for those at risk for suicide that persists in health care,” states the Zero Suicide website. ”The Zero Suicide model represents a galvanizing but feasible approach for identifying and caring for people at risk for suicide. Asking directly about suicide and responding appropriately should and could be as routine as having blood pressure, height and weight checked at every health care visit, yet this normalization has been mostly resisted to date.”
VIDEO: Michael Hogan, “Zero Suicide in Health and Behavioral Health Care”
Zero Suicide is 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.”
Zero Suicide has been adopted and adapted for use in health and behavioral health care systems such as hospitals, primary care, emergency departments, outpatient mental health, inpatient psychiatry, substance misuse care settings, children’s hospitals, crisis care, corrections, foster care systems, federal, state, and local agencies, Indian Country, health plans and payers, colleges and universities, and technology companies, according to the Zero Suicide website.
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 Suicide Prevention Center of New York State highlights a variety of evidence-based trainings, workshops, online learning modules, and resources available in New York for state employees, clinicians, other health care workers, community members, and school staff.
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 stepped up to be “Zero Suicide Champions” in June 2018:
- 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
“Call to Action: Suicide Prevention in Healthcare,” a special presentation on the Zero Suicide Model for Tompkins County healthcare leaders, by Jenna Heise, Director of Suicide Prevention Implementation at the New York State Office of Mental Health’s Suicide Prevention Center; Hosted by The Sophie Fund, November 16, 2021. [VIEW VIDEO]
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 Care” (2014) [VIEW VIDEO]
Michael Hogan, “Zero Suicide in Health and Behavioral Health Care” (2015) [VIEW VIDEO]
Zero Suicide Resources
Zero Suicide Model in Tompkins County
“Report on the Zero Suicide Model In Tompkins County,” The Sophie Fund (March 26, 2018)
Zero Suicide Roadmap
Zero Suicide is based on the following foundational principles:
Core Values—the belief and commitment that suicide can be eliminated in a population under care by improving service access and quality and through practicing continuous quality improvement.
Systems Management—taking systematic steps across systems of care to create a culture that no longer finds suicide acceptable, setting aggressive but achievable goals to eliminate suicide attempts and deaths, and organizing service delivery and support accordingly.
Evidence-Based Clinical Care Practices—adopting practices that research shows reduce suicide deaths and behaviors and that are delivered through the entire system of care and that emphasize productive patient-staff interactions.
The Zero Suicide Model operationalizes the core components necessary for health care systems to transform suicide care into seven elements:
LEAD—Lead system-wide culture change committed to reducing suicides.
TRAIN—Train a competent, confident, and caring workforce.
IDENTIFY—Identify individuals with suicide risk via comprehensive screening and assessment.
ENGAGE—Engage all individuals at-risk of suicide using a suicide care management plan.
TREAT—Treat suicidal thoughts and behaviors directly using evidence-based treatments.
TRANSITION—Transition individuals through care with warm hand-offs and supportive contacts.
IMPROVE—Improve policies and procedures through continuous quality improvement.
How Healthcare Providers Can Get Started
“Zero Suicide: The Dogged Pursuit of Perfection in Health Care,” David W. Covington, LPC, MBA, Michael F. Hogan, PhD
“Efficacy of the Zero Suicide Framework” by Nicolas J.C. Stapelberg, Jerneja Sveticic, Ian Hughes, Alice Almeido-Crasto
“Inconvenient truths in suicide prevention: Why a Restorative Just Culture should be implemented alongside a Zero Suicide Framework” by Kathryn Turner, Nicolas Stapelberg, Jerneja Sveticic and Sidney Dekker
“Implementing a systems approach to suicide prevention in a mental health service using the Zero Suicide Framework” by Kathryn Turner, Jerneja Sveticic and Alice Almeida-Crasto
“Building a System of Perfect Depression Care in Behavioral Health” April 2007 C. Edward Coffey
“Suicide Prevention: An Emerging Priority for Health Care” by Michael F. Hogan and Julie Goldstein Grumet
“Challenges of Population-based Measurement of Suicide Prevention Activities Across Multiple Health Systems” by Bobbi Jo H. Yarborough, Brian K. Ahmedani, et al.
“An Update on Perfect Depression Care” by C. Edward Coffey, M.D., M. Justin Coffey , M.D., and Brian K. Ahmedani , Ph.D.
“How We Dramatically Reduced Suicide” by M. Justin Coffey, MD & C. Edward Coffey, MD
“Perfect Depression Care Spread: The Traction of Zero Suicides” by M. Justin Coffey, MD
“Interview with Dr. Michael Hogan from the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention,” National Center for Integrated Behavioral Health
“Improving Care to Prevent Suicide Among People with Serious Mental Illness: Proceedings of a Workshop,” National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
“Preventing Suicide Through Improved Training in Suicide Risk Assessment and Care” Schmitz, W. M., Jr, Allen, M. H., Feldman, B. N., Gutin, N. J., Jahn, D. R., Kleespies, P. M., . . . Simpson, S. (2012)
“Training Mental Health Professionals to Assess and Manage Suicidal Behavior” Oordt, M. S., Jobes, D. A., Fonseca, V. P., & Schmidt, S. M. (2009)
“We tell suicidal people to go to therapy. So why are therapists rarely trained in suicide?” Alia E. Dastagir, USA TODAY
“Does Response on the PHQ-9 Depression Questionnaire Predict Subsequent Suicide Attempt or Suicide Death?” Simon , G. E., Rutter, C. M., Peterson, D., Oliver, M., Whiteside, U., Operskalski, B., & Ludman, E. J. (2013).
“Development of a Clinical Guide to Enhance Care for Suicidal Patients” Oordt, M. S., Jobes, D. A., Rudd, M. D., Fonseca, V. P., Runyan, C. N., Stea, J. B., . . . Talcott, G. W. (2005).
“Ethical and Competent Care of Suicidal Patients” Jobes, D. A., Rudd, M. D., Overholser, J. C., & Joiner, T. E., Jr. (2008).
“Building a Therapeutic Alliance with the Suicidal Patient” K. Michel, & D. A. Jobes (Eds.). (2011).
“Safety Planning Intervention: A Brief Intervention to Mitigate Suicide” Stanley, B., & Brown, G. (2012).
Suggested Reading—Continuity of Care
“Can Postdischarge Follow-up Contacts Prevent Suicide and Suicidal Behavior? A Review of the Evidence” Luxton, D. D., June, J. D., & Comtois, K. A. (2013).