The power of Zero
The U.S. News & World Report ranked Colorado Springs as number 11 on its list of 2017 Best Places to Live in the USA. However, even in this ultimate vacation destination of snow-capped mountains and clean air, tragedy can strike.
During a two-week period in May 2016 at a local Colorado Springs high school, four students took their lives.
These deaths shook the local community, prompting the team at Beacon Health Options’ Colorado Springs office to learn more about suicide prevention. The following month, four employees from that office attended a Zero Suicide Academy. Within three months, they had mobilized a cross-departmental implementation team charged with a set of tasks to transform how they, and colleagues, approach suicide prevention and treatment. A key component of this work has been cultural – through encouraging individuals to talk openly about and to share their own experiences of suicide.
Colorado Springs is not alone in confronting the pain dealt by suicide deaths. The story is not improving nationally. Even as overall mortality rates decline, suicide rates are on the rise in the United States – increasing by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014 with more than 40,000 suicide deaths annually.
Founded in the belief that suicide deaths are preventable, the Zero Suicide model asserts that suicidal behavior disorder is a treatable condition, just like any other mental or physical health condition.
Suicide as a treatable condition
Today, Beacon is launching its 2017 White Paper on this important topic: “We Need to Talk About Suicide”. Our research on the evidence base led us to the Zero Suicide model as the best-in-class approach to suicide prevention and treatment, an approach developed by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
Founded in the belief that suicide deaths are preventable, this model asserts that suicidal behavior disorder is a treatable condition, just like any other mental or physical health condition. This requires a shift in mindset as many of us as clinicians have been taught that suicide is the side effect of another underlying mental health condition.
By viewing suicidal behavior disorder as a treatable condition in its own right, distinct from a co-occurring disorder, proactive identification of the condition can be better integrated into clinical practice. In short, if we can identify individuals with suicidal behavior prior to a crisis, evidence based treatments now exist to treat this disorder – in an outpatient, rather than inpatient, setting.
Zero Suicide model organizes suicide care
While some may view “zero” as an unrealistic and therefore self-defeating goal, we look at it as the only number to which we can aspire.
The Zero Suicide framework has seven essential elements: Lead, Train, Identify, Engage, Treat, Transition and Improve. This model provides health care organizations with a roadmap to initiating transformative change around suicide prevention and care.
Demonstrating the power of zero, the Henry Ford Health System reduced suicide rates by 75 percent over a four-year period through adopting the Zero Suicide framework, leading to 10 consecutive quarters without a suicide death. While some may view “zero” as an unrealistic and therefore self-defeating goal, we look at it as the only number to which we can aspire.
Through the publication of this White Paper, Beacon Health Options commits to making suicide a never event whenever humanly possible. We invite our health plan partners, providers, and clients to join us in this campaign. To learn more about Zero Suicide, read our white paper by clicking on the image above.