Kansas Suicide Prevention HQ hosts the first-ever ZeroSuicide Academy in Kansas

ZeroSuicide Update: Kansas Suicide Prevention HQ hosts the first-ever ZeroSuicide Academy in Kansas, by Monica Kurz

So often we say “help is available” when we are encouraging our friends, family, or even ourselves to reach out when experiencing mental health distress or a suicide crisis. It is unfortunate that many people experience disappointment or confusion when they reach out for that help. Maybe they are reluctant to reach out again because they are fearful that it will just end in an inpatient hospitalization that is scary and often not very helpful with the things that led to the suicide crisis. 

Zero Suicide is an audacious goal set by healthcare providers that no one in their care will die by suicide. It is audacious because it is difficult and worthwhile. One death is too many. Zero Suicide is also a framework that can be utilized by healthcare providers (mental health, substance use, and physical health) to engage in systems change. 

The change requires that an emphasis be placed on identifying patients who may have some suicide risk through the systematic use of evidence-based tools. Then a person should be placed into a suicide care pathway similar to the care pathways that are used to rally medical professionals around a person who has had a heart attack. Every provider in the pathway knows what to do for the person and when to do it. Transitions are smooth and treatments that show scientific evidence of helping reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviors are used. All of this is planned with the input of those with lived experience of their own suicide crisis or loss.

In Douglas County, we gathered almost 70 people representing our partners from LMH Health, Bert Nash, Heartland Community Health Clinic, Heartland RADAC, DCCCA, Inc., Lawrence Douglas County Public Health, the counseling center at KSPHQ, the Willow, the STA Care Center, and the Sedgwick County Suicide Prevention Coalition. They participated in a 3-day intensive training on the Zero Suicide Model. Each team did an incredible amount of work to prepare for this opportunity. There was an enormous amount of energy as we left the Academy which we have a great opportunity to channel into system change.