Saving Lives through Zero Suicide Initiative
Zero Suicide Initiative

By Lindsay Riggs, Zero Suicide Committee member

Suicide is an epidemic that knows no boundaries. It affects individuals of all ages, ethnicities, genders and economic statuses. Sadly, it is also far too common. In a 2015 brief issued by the Centers for Disease Control, it is estimated that one person dies by suicide every 13 minutes in the United States.

Suicide not only robs those whose life it claims of fulfilling their potential, it also leaves behind families, friends and communities to deal with its devastation. How many lives are too many to lose to suicide? The Helen Ross McNabb Center believes that answer is one. That is why the Center has embraced the Zero Suicide Initiative—a national movement with the aim to examine care practices for those at risk with a goal to end suicide. 

A central belief of this initiative is that suicide is preventable. Building upon this belief, the initiative also asserts that care for those at risk can be improved through education and the use of evidence-based tools. Working collaboratively with the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, as well as peer agencies across the state, the Center has committed to the initiative’s goal by adopting new tools and redesigning its care pathways.  Under the direction of the Center’s Zero Suicide Committee, Center staff were surveyed to determine education needs, staff received face-to-face trainings with committee members to introduce the initiative’s philosophy, and new evidence-based tools were vetted and incorporated into the Center’s care practice.

As a result of the initiative, three new evidence-based tools are being introduced and implemented throughout the Center this year, including Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR), the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS), and Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk (AMSR). All three tools will assist Center staff to identify individuals at risk of suicide and guide them to appropriate levels of care. “These tools provide a roadmap to ensure that we are asking the right questions in the right way so that we don’t miss even one person,” stated Lori Ramsey, director of crisis services.

For over 67 years, the Center’s mission has been “improving the lives of the people we serve.” This year, our mission carries on as we work to protect the lives of those who we encounter and those who entrust us with their care. “The overall takeaway is that we are embracing an exciting culture shift through providing additional assistance to those that struggle with suicidal thoughts and actions,” said Candace Allen, senior director of adult intensive mental health services. “Suicide is preventable, and individuals from all levels of the organization can help to achieve this goal.”