May 8, 2024

The Zero Suicide Toolkit for Children’s Hospitals is being released today in honor of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

The issue of pediatric suicide has become an increasingly urgent concern, prompting health care systems to seek innovative solutions to address this critical public health challenge.

In response to the unique needs of pediatric populations, the Zero Suicide Institute, in collaboration with Cardinal Health Foundation, has released the Zero Suicide Toolkit for Children’s Hospitals, a groundbreaking adaptation of the Zero Suicide Toolkit, for implementation in children’s hospitals.

Here we’ll explore how the Zero Suicide Toolkit for Children’s Hospitals can transform and benefit suicide prevention efforts in pediatric health care and other youth-serving systems.

Understanding the Zero Suicide framework: The Zero Suicide framework is a comprehensive approach to improving suicide care within health and behavioral health systems. Its core belief is that every suicide death is preventable. To achieve this, Zero Suicide focuses on identifying and supporting individuals at risk of suicide by integrating suicide prevention practices into routine health care settings.

Challenges in pediatric suicide prevention: Pediatric suicide presents unique challenges due to factors such as developmental stages, communication barriers, and limited access to mental health resources. Children’s hospitals play a crucial role in addressing these challenges by providing specialized care for young patients and their families. Likewise, integrating suicide prevention efforts into pediatric health care also requires a specialized approach.

The Zero Suicide Toolkit for Children’s Hospitals

This comprehensive resource provides child- and youth-serving systems with practical guidance, tools, and strategies for implementing the Zero Suicide framework effectively. Key components include:

  1. Developmentally appropriate screening tools: The toolkit adaptation provides evidence-based screening tools and assessment protocols tailored to pediatric populations, considering developmental stages and communication barriers.
  2. Training and education modules: Health care professionals across all disciplines can access training modules on suicide risk assessment, intervention techniques, and postvention strategies for children and adolescents.
  3. Family-centered care guidelines: Recognizing the importance of the family in pediatric health care, the toolkit adaptation provides guidance on engaging parents and caregivers in suicide prevention efforts and supporting families in crisis.
  4. Integration with pediatric care: Practical guidance is provided on integrating suicide prevention practices into existing pediatric health care workflows, including primary care, emergency departments, and specialty clinics.

By leveraging the resources provided in the Zero Suicide Toolkit for Children’s Hospitals, children’s hospitals can:

  • Identify and intervene with at-risk children and adolescents at an earlier stage, potentially preventing suicide attempts or completions
  • Enhance collaboration and communication among health care providers, mental health specialists, schools, and community resources
  • Reduce stigma surrounding mental health issues and suicide, promoting a culture of openness and support within pediatric health care settings
  • Improve patient outcomes and satisfaction by providing comprehensive, family-centered care that addresses the unique needs of pediatric populations

The release of the Zero Suicide Institute’s toolkit adaptation represents a significant step forward in pediatric suicide prevention by recognizing the unique needs of children and their families.

As part of a continuing partnership between Zero Suicide Institute, Cardinal Health Foundation and Children’s Hospital Association, more than 40 children’s hospitals across the country are working together to identify, assess, and care for children at risk for suicide. Learnings from their current collaboration and eventual experience with the new pediatric toolkit will inform efforts among the larger community of children’s hospitals and community partners. 

WyKisha Thomas-McKinney, EDC senior project associate, is a national expert in mental health promotion and suicide prevention with over 20 years of experience in nonprofit program development, program management, and evaluation. She specializes in influencing systemic change and breaking down the stigma of suicide through outreach and education.
Promoting Healthy Futures
Suicide, Violence, and Injury Prevention

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