ZERO SUICIDE – A commitment to suicide prevention in health and behavioral health care systems.

Zero Suicide, a project of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), is a key concept of the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and a priority of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

Read this webpage and click these buttons to learn about Zero Suicide efforts in Vermont

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.

Vermont, in its efforts to remain at the forefront of evidence-based practice, is taking on this challenge. The 
Vermont Department of Mental Health has chosen Zero Suicide as the framework for current state efforts in health care systems. As Vermont aligns its efforts with the National Strategy, the results and successes of this growing national 
initiative in communities around the country present an opportunity to have an immediate impact on the number of deaths by suicide.

Elements of Suicide Care for Health and Behavioral Health Care Systems to Adopt

This framework was developed by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, a federally funded project, and more information can be found here: zerosuicide.edc.org/toolkit

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

Make an explicit commitment to reduce deaths.

  • The culture in primary care, emergency department, and mental health settings reflects the belief that suicide of patients can be prevented.
  • Assess staff knowledge, practices, and confidence in providing suicide safe care.

Train

Develop a competent, confident, and caring workforce.

  • The Zero Suicide approach begins the moment the patient walks through the door and all staff feel confident in their ability to provide caring and effective assistance to patients with suicide risk.
  • All primary care, emergency department, mental health and mental health providers are trained in effective suicide risk assessment and review suicide risk of patient at each visit.
  • All providers who counsel people at risk for suicide are trained in Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (CALM).

Identify

Assess patients for suicide risk.

  • All patients are screened for suicide risk on their first contact with a provider and at every subsequent contact. 
  • Staff use the same tool and procedures in their organization for screening to ensure that clients at suicide risk are identified. 
  • Providers conduct a suicide risk assessment whenever a patient screens positive for suicide risk.

Engage

All individuals at-risk of suicide using a suicide care management plan.

  • Primary care, hospitals and emergency departments, mental health and crisis services ensure that all patients identified as at risk of suicide develop a suicide safety plan.

Treat

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors using evidence-based treatments.

  • Clients receive evidence-based treatment to address suicidal thoughts and behaviors directly, in addition to treatment for other mental health issues. 
  • Care is provided in the least restrictive setting by working with community agencies and other partners to provide treatment options and settings.

Follow

Individuals through care with warm hand-offs and supportive contacts.

  • Caregivers and clinicians bridge patient transitions from inpatient, ED, or primary care to outpatient mental health care. 
  • Providers address suicide risk at every visit within an organization, from one mental health clinician to another or between primary care and mental health staff in integrated care settings.

Throughout these elements Zero Suicide emphasizes the necessity of involving survivors of suicide attempts and suicide loss in leadership and planning. As part of the state’s coordinated efforts, Zero Suicide will play a vital role for individuals under care. 

To learn more about Zero Suicide efforts in Vermont, download a copy of the “Zero Suicide in Vermont” brochure.