For Health Care Providers


Q: Is “zero suicide” a realistic goal?
A: If not “zero,” what goal is acceptable?

Know these facts:

  • Many—perhaps most—deaths by suicide are preventable.
  • Many mental health treatment providers, substance use treatment providers, and primary care medical providers have no training in suicide prevention.
  • Many healthcare organizations do not have procedures or protocols designed to prevent death by suicide.

To reduce or eliminate suicide, five things are necessary:


2. Means-restriction. Limit the suicidal or depressed person’s access to lethal means, especially guns.

3. Education about how to effectively intervene, both for “the public” and for all people working in the healthcare, education, and “helping” professions.

4. Specific training for mental health and other treatment providers, training to use evidence-based practices that are proven to help prevent suicide deaths.

5. Suicide-prevention procedures and protocols for healthcare organizations, as well as schools, churches, law enforcement, businesses, etc.


When the Henry Ford Medical System (in Detroit) decided to work toward a zero-suicide goal for their 200,000 members, it wasn’t long before they saw dramatic positive results. Before long, they hit ZERO, and by the time the articles were published, they had gone over two-and-a-half years without a death by suicide.

It’s not magic how they did it. Here’s the basic recipe:

  • Create a protocol to assess risk and assign patients into one of three risk levels, each of which requires specific defined interventions
  • Train all psychotherapists to provide cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
  • Implement protocol to remove all weapons from patient’s home
  • Establish three means of rapid access: drop-in group medication sessions; same-day access to care; email “visits”
  • Implement system for staff-initiated telephone check-ins with patients as home
  • Education: website for patients and families; in-person training for family members; all staff (not only clinical staff) trained in suicide prevention

Click here to read the details about the successful project at Henry Ford in Detroit.

If you work for a hospital, a mental health program, healthcare system, an HMO, a BHO, an ACO, a CCO…you could make the commitment to prevent suicide. There are methods that you could implement now; methods that work. Click here to read or download a detailed plan—best practices, ready to implement in your organization or system—the Suicide Prevention: Systems Toolkit.