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Laura Leone, DSW, MSSW, LMSW

Integrated Health Consultant for the National Council for Behavioral Health

8 Steps for Organization-wide Suicide Prevention

October 21, 2020 | Mental Health Treatment | Comments
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Suicide prevention can seem like a daunting undertaking for any organization or center, but as the number of deaths by suicide keep increasing and worsening due to COVID-19, it becomes a necessary public health issue we must address. If your organization is overwhelmed with how to proceed, these eight steps are a framework to help guide you:

  1. Identify leadership, champions and a task force:Get people involved in your suicide-prevention efforts, supporting it from the “bottom up” and “top down.” It is most effective to find staff in several disciplines and roles who are not just from mental health and addictions care, and to consider how to include the voice and choice of clients. The responsibility should not lay with just one person.
  2. Educate and inspire change: When people understand why change, new workflows or asking the hard questions is necessary, they are more likely to engage and do a better job. Educate people on suicidality, the opportunities during work to ask people about suicide and the ways to intervene when necessary.
  3. Gauge the current organizational landscape: Understand the baseline metrics around suicide for your organization, such as when people are most “at risk,” how many deaths by suicide and suicide attempts are occurring, how many safety-planning interventions are used when clients express suicidality, etc.
  4. Practice improvement: Take education a step further by understanding best practices around suicide inquiry, screening and evidence-based interventions. There are opportunities to assist clients in their outpatient setting rather than having them visit a hospital emergency department.
  5. Imbed throughout the organization: Consider how to optimize your electronic health record around suicide-prevention efforts, including the use of decision supports, problem lists and other features. Effectively communicating around clients who are “at risk” in real time could save a life. Likewise, find multiple ways to discuss suicide-prevention efforts with staff, creating a continual feedback loop using the data collected.
  6. Ongoing mining of resources and supports: There are new resources, trainings and support around suicide prevention for both clients and staff emerging daily. Take the time to check in on what’s new from such organizations as the National Council, Suicide Prevention Resource Center, Zero Suicide, Now Matters Now and more.
  7. Collaborate with clients, external Organizations and stakeholders: Consider how to best share information and support clients in the community, as well as how to help create opportunities for wellness. Efforts and success will be greater and stronger when people and organizations collaborate and share information and resources.
  8. Wash, rinse and repeat: Repeatedly run through each step to keep your quality improvement going for suicide prevention, while using your metrics to gauge improvement opportunities and successes. And consider working with an Integrated Health Consultant at the National Council, ensuring your organization has the support and insights into building internal and external capacity for suicide prevention.

Facilitation in the process, coaching and technical assistance by a consultant can allow your organization to make a difference by preventing deaths by suicides and the negative impact that every death has on the surviving 135+ lives that the person leaves behind.

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