Originally published August 1, 2017
Here is an excerpt:
They call it “Zero Suicide”, a bold ambition and slogan that emerged from a Detroit hospital more than a decade ago, and which is now being incorporated into several NHS trusts. Since our first meeting, Steve has himself embraced the idea, and in May of this year held talks with Mersey Care, one of the specialist mental health trusts already applying a zero strategy. His plans are at an early stage, but he is setting out to create a Zero Suicide foundation. He wants it to identify good practices across the 55 mental health trusts in England and create a new strategy to be applied everywhere.
The zero approach is a proactive strategy that aims to identify and care for all those who may be at risk of suicide, rather than reacting once patients have reached crisis point. It emphasises strong leadership, improved training, better patient-screening and the use of the latest data and research to make changes without fear or delay. It is a joined-up strategy that challenges old ideas about the inevitability of suicide, the stigma that surrounds it, and the idea that if a reduction target is achieved, the deaths on the way to it are somehow acceptable. “Even if you believe we are never going to eradicate suicide, we must strive towards that,” Steve said to me. “If zero isn’t the right target, then what is?”
Zero Suicide is not radical, incorporating as it does several existing prevention strategies. But that it should be seen as new and daringly ambitious reveals much about how slowly attitudes have changed. In the 1957 book The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life, a semi-autobiographical examination of the cultural upheavals of the 1950s, Richard Hoggart recalled his upbringing in Leeds. “Every so often one heard that so-and-so had ‘done ’erself in’ … or ‘put ’er ’ead in the gas-oven’,” he wrote. “It did not happen monthly or even every season, and not all attempts succeeded; but it happened sufficiently often to be part of the pattern of life.” He wondered how “suicide could be accepted – pitifully but with little suggestion of blame – as part of the order of existence”.
The article is here.