Zero Suicide in Wisconsin

About Zero Suicide

Prevent Suicide Wisconsin, along with other state, organizational and corporate entities have embraced the notion of Zero Suicide. There has been a lot of buzz in the media and in the medical community about “Zero Suicide”.  In many cases, it has been either ignored or laughed at. “There is no such thing as zero suicides. We can’t stop them all.” Or, “Why set a goal that is unattainable?”

But, let’s look at it another way. If we don’t have a goal of ZERO, what number should it be? Should we say that dropping the number of suicides in Wisconsin from over 750 per year to 650 is acceptable? Or 500? How about 300?  Of course, dropping the number is a good thing – but what about those families and loved ones of those who still die by suicide? Do they see that?

Zero Suicide is a basic commitment to suicide prevention in the healthcare and behavioral healthcare systems. Zero Suicide is based on a systematic approach to quality improvement; it does not rely on the heroic efforts of individual clinicians but rather the conscientious and consistent use of specific tools and strategies throughout organizations.  Just as health systems have been able to initiate systematic practices and policies that alleviate medical errors and falls, the Zero Suicide Model can and has reduced the number of suicides by individuals. 

The Henry Ford Health System in Michigan has shown great success with this initiative.  There, a team of those involved with patient care and quality improvement were able to develop its Perfect Depression Care Model, making suicide prevention its primary goal. By use of promising and evidence-based practices, HFHS was able to reduce the suicide rate among plan members by 80 percent.

Intrigued by the results of the Perfect Depression Care Model, Mental Health America of Wisconsin put together two separate teams to spend a few days at HFHS for a Perfect Depression Care Academy training. Each team consisted of two to three people from organizations around the state with the plan that they would return to their facilities and begin initiating these practices in their own systems. The organizations were varied; from small private behavioral health clinics, to a large multi-county public system provider, to full service health systems.

MHA Wisconsin thoroughly believes that the Perfect Depression Care approach is a strong, proven way to help Wisconsin in its goal of Zero Suicide and will support efforts in the state. The first Wisconsin State Zero Suicide Training was held at the Prevent Suicide Wisconsin Annual Conference in Stevens Point in  April 2015.  This training was supported by grant funding from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Future training sessions are already in planning stages. Watch for upcoming promotions.

Suicide Care Training Options

Quick Guide to Getting Started

Data Elements Worksheet

Work-Plan Template


WSZSA contacts

Shel Gross, Director of Public Policy -

WSZSA Groups/References

Coming soon.

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2018 Zero Suicide Topic Calls

October 24: Jail Suicide Prevention 

See agenda here and attachments below:

DOC 350.17 on Suicide Prevention


May 25: Death Review Teams

Denise Wirth (Eau Claire City-County Health Department) and Debbie Rueber (Kenosha County Division of Health)  discussed death review teams. The “Self-Harm Death Analysis Review Team  (SDART) Toolkit” was referenced throughout the presentation. Notes from the call >>

DQA’s report on reportable suicide deaths in Wisconsin

January 25: Pathway to Care

Jenna Heise, Texas’ State Suicide Prevention Coordinator, presented on the pathway to care and care transitions. Jenna’s work is with Texas’ local mental health authorities which are similar to our county human service providers - so this is especially relevant to those  working in the public system and with programs such as CSP and CCS.
Download slides (PDF) >>


Wisconsin Coalitions & Crisis Lines

Wisconsin Suicide Prevention Strategy

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