Life in Mind jointly launches new Zero Suicide Healthcare Training directory to support staff in mental health services

Posted 9th July 2020 in Research General

Life in Mind has collaborated with the Zero Suicide Institute of Australasia (ZSIA) to launch a national directory of training programs that aim to empower healthcare workers to feel confident and competent to provide compassionate care to people experiencing suicidal behaviours. 

The Zero Suicide Healthcare Training directory aligns with the Zero Suicide Healthcare Framework and showcases various Australian programs that provide relevant training to support healthcare staff. 

ZSIA works with healthcare systems to enhance the quality and safety of those who are suicidal and come into contact with our healthcare and hospital systems. Sue Murray is the Director of Zero Suicide Institute of Australasia (ZSIA), and the Life in Mind team spoke to Sue about the importance of this initiative.

ZSIA is leading the development of the Zero Suicide Healthcare Framework in our region. Can you tell us why the Zero Suicide Healthcare Framework is so important?

According to the Global Burden of Disease report, for every suicide approximately 45 person years of life are lost. For Australia that means we are losing around 140,000 person years of life every year. We also know that around one in five people who suicide have been connected to our healthcare system prior to death. We know who those people are, we know what has happened to them while in care and they should be leaving the healthcare system connected into local community supports. Suicides and attempted suicides are an unacceptable outcome in modern healthcare settings.

The core principle of Zero Suicide Healthcare is that suicide deaths for people receiving healthcare are preventable, and the goal is that no deaths by suicide occur amongst persons receiving health care – viewing this is an aspirational challenge that health systems should accept. 

Zero Suicide Healthcare draws on the techniques of quality management and continuous improvement in its design and implementation. It implicitly assumes that suicide prevention can be addressed in health care settings in the same way, and with the same absolute improvements, as has been done in wound management, infection control and medication management. 

To be effective, Zero Suicide Healthcare requires organisational, workplace and professional cultures that support continuous improvement and better practice in suicide prevention. The concepts of a Just and Learning Culture are an essential characteristic of Zero Suicide Healthcare.

How can training programs support our healthcare services in implementing the Zero Suicide approach?

We all want those who turn to healthcare to have a better experience when feeling suicidal. For those presenting to systems where Zero Suicide Healthcare is practised they will experience that suicidality can be discussed openly, is treated directly and managed in a least restrictive, recovery-oriented way. As they transition through the system they have chosen, no person falls through the cracks. 

However, for many who have trained in mental health, this did not include training to directly address suicidality. The most recent evidence shows that this is an important concept – treat suicidal behaviour directly rather than as a by-product of other treatments for mental ill-health. This is important because we also know that there are many situational factors that impact on a person and if these fuse together at a single moment in time it can be overwhelming and may result in a decision to take their own life.

With staff trained to manage suicidal behaviours the health workforce will be not only caring and compassionate but also competent and confident in working with people who feel suicidal. What this means is better outcomes for the person who seeks their help. 

Why is the training directory needed; and who it is aimed at?

Zero Suicide Healthcare is a relatively new approach. Queensland implemented it across 14 sites, commencing in 2017. NSW Ministry of Health is implementing the Zero Suicides in Care initiative across all local health districts. South Australia has included it within their Mental Health Services Plan. 

Currently the majority of resources available to support implementation and planning are those produced in the US by the Zero Suicide Institute. While these resources are based on international research and are very useful, we wanted to make training, in particular, more accessible and relevant to the Australian context, hence the development of the directory.

The programs listed in the Life in Mind directory offer training to both clinical and non-clinical staff. This is important because not every person who feels suicidal may enter the health system from a single entry point. For this reason, it is recommended that all health service staff have some level of training on working with people who feel suicidal.

We have not captured all the available training in this directory, but it is a start. With this release we anticipate there will be ongoing requests for training programs to be added to the directory.

Why did you look to Life in Mind to help shine a spotlight on this important framework and host this directory to support our healthcare systems?

Life in Mind aims to be a central point for everyone to access information and resources related to suicide prevention in Australia. If we want people to have ready access to the information and resources they need, those of us working in suicide prevention need to support the aim of Life in Mind - it doesn’t stop us from adding material to our organisational websites, but does make it easier for others to find what they need. 

Life in Mind encourages you to share the Zero Suicides Healthcare Training directory with healthcare workers in mental health. 

Contact zsia@zerosuicide.com.au  to add a training program that may be appropriate to the Zero Suicide Healthcare Training directory.

Learn more about the Zero Suicide Healthcare Framework here and find the national directory of training programs here.