Suicide is a serious public health problem, claiming more than 48,000 lives in the U.S. in 2021. Research shows that nearly half of individuals who die by suicide interacted with the health care system in the month before their death. This signals an opportunity for health care providers to identify individuals experiencing suicide risk and connect them to appropriate care, but not all health settings have the knowledge and resources to implement best practices.
A new initiative from The Pew Charitable Trusts and Education Development Center’s Zero Suicide Institute (ZSI) aims to demonstrate that a diverse cohort of hospitals can expand and enhance their suicide care practices. The Suicide Care Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN) is a network of hospitals around the country, serving a wide range of geographic areas and populations, that will test evidence-informed methods to detect suicide risk and connect patients to treatment with the guidance of ZSI experts. “The experience and skills of all participants is what speeds the transfer of research-informed interventions into practice,” said Julie Goldstein Grumet, ZSI’s director. “The participants will test, implement, refine, and scale up innovations to improve the care provided to patients at risk of suicide in health care settings.” Pew also spoke to several CoIIN participants about why they decided to join this effort:
“Our Division of Inpatient Services first engaged with ZSI at its Zero Suicide Academy in 2019. Participation in CoIIN is the logical next step to collaborate with other organizations and experts to ensure we implement our Suicide Continuum of Care Pathway to fidelity, while continuing to improve and sustain our progress. We have the foundation and talent in a team that truly wants to save lives.
“Our department leads the effort to adopt the Zero Suicide Health Care framework across the state, in organizations, public and private, and nonbehavioral health agencies. We believe that everyone has a role in suicide awareness and prevention. One person or agency cannot win this battle alone.”
—Allyson Sipes, director of clinical initiatives, South Carolina Department of Mental Health Division of Inpatient Services
“It’s time to talk about and normalize mental health. Suicide is a difficult topic, and it represents one of the biggest challenges in the health of Puerto Ricans, especially within the elderly—the only segment of the population growing on our island and where the highest suicide rate prevails. At the Mennonite Health System, we take it seriously and manage it with the urgency it requires. That’s why we are proud to be the first and only health system in Puerto Rico to establish an alliance with ZSI to execute strategies to properly intervene in these situations. This collaboration is key and necessary to guide the systematic suicide prevention strategies that Mennonite has implemented. We are convinced that with this new project, we will contribute to adding additional resources to the community and our health system to fight this public health emergency.”
—Ricardo Hernández, chief executive officer, Mennonite Health System, Puerto Rico
“Suicide care and prevention are extremely important for our patients and communities. We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this collaborative, which will provide us with evidence-based best practices and skills to help us better support our patients and families upon discharge.”
—Fiona McCaughan, associate chief nursing officer for inpatient psychiatry, Cambridge Health Alliance, Massachusetts
“Trinity Health Ann Arbor is deeply committed to the critical mission of reducing the impact that suicide has on individuals, families, and communities. As a proud member of the suicide care CoIIN, we value the opportunity to engage with other health systems across the country by sharing insights, information, and best practices. Through our involvement, we strive to enhance our prevention and postvention [support for the bereaved] services utilizing the ‘zero suicide’ model, which includes incorporating research, developments, and evidence-based practices into the care and treatment of our patients. Our commitment to this mission extends throughout our organization, from providing compassionate care, treatment, and support to those affected by suicide, to promoting awareness and reducing stigma through community engagement. We recognize this work is both rewarding and challenging, and we are honored to have been selected to participate in this nationwide effort to make a difference in the lives of so many.”
—Melissa Tolstyka, director of behavioral health services, Trinity Health Ann Arbor, Michigan
“Suicide is a complex and multifaceted problem that affects individuals, families, and entire communities. Addressing the risk of suicide is not only a moral imperative but also a public health priority. By taking steps to identify individuals with suicide risk and engaging those individuals in evidence-based treatment, the needless loss of life can be prevented and the devastating impact that suicide has can be reduced. Suicide prevention efforts require a comprehensive approach that involves not only health care providers but also community leaders, educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders. Trinity Health Grand Rapids has a long history of partnering with key figures in the community to address the mental health needs of our community members, and we are grateful for the opportunity to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to being a leader in mental health care and suicide prevention.”
—Tom Van Der Schaaf, clinical services manager of the psychiatric medical unit, Trinity Health Grand Rapids, Michigan
“Royal Oaks Hospital is pleased, and honored, to be selected to participate in the suicide care CoIIN. It is Royal Oaks’ mission to ‘Inspire Hope. Promote Wellness.’ We are dedicated to decreasing the suicide rate and the number of suicide attempts in our nation, while making suicide risk assessments and care a part of routine health care in the United States.”
—Al Greimann, chief executive officer, Royal Oaks Hospital, and executive vice president, Compass Health Network, Missouri
“As the largest provider of behavioral health services in the state of Indiana, we are proud to be selected for this important work. Through this collaboration, we will work in partnership to share best practices, collectively improve outcomes, and ultimately save lives.”
—Candace Frierson, vice president administrator/chief nurse executive, Community Health Network – Community Fairbanks Behavioral Health, Indiana
Allison Corr works on The Pew Charitable Trusts’ suicide risk reduction project.