"alt="Launched in June 2020 by the NSW Government, the Towards Zero Suicides (TZS) program has expanded into a successful and essential part of the state-wide effort to reduce suicide.

Zero Suicides in Care, which aims to support consumers and staff in the NSW Mental Health system with tools such as policy, continuous quality improvement and evaluation, and culture and leadership development programs to empower people and their families to participate in care and recovery.

Zero Suicides in Care sits alongside the other TZS initiatives and concentrates on systematic, continuous change management and quality improvements to reduce suicides of individuals in contact with NSW public mental health care settings.

Illawarra Shoalhaven identified a Zero Suicides in Care leader to manage the initiative to ensure its success and help the broader TZS program to achieve its goals to improve care and save lives.

In August 2020, a steering committee was formed with clinicians and people with lived experience. One of the co-chairs of that committee is Pippa Stevenson, who is also the Suicide Prevention Manager of Zero Suicides in Care at Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD Mental Health Service.

"We have a strong Suicide Prevention Collaborative here in Illawarra Shoalhaven, and they were very involved in the co-design and implementation of Zero Suicides in Care," Pippa says.

"The committee is co-chaired by myself and a person with lived experience. That shared approach has been successful because it brings other voices and perspectives as well as those of NSW Health staff. The collaborative determine what we need to do. It's a collaborative approach informed by real experiences."

Pippa works with managers and staff across the LHD and people with lived experience of suicide and mental ill-health. Though she is not a clinician, her role within Zero Suicides in Care is to help identify, develop and implement improvements for suicide prevention. This includes procedures and pathways, education, engagement with consumers and carers and external organisations.

The role has been a tremendous undertaking for Pippa, who previously served as a NSW Police officer for 16 years. She also worked with the Illawarra Shoalhaven Drug & Alcohol service before stepping into her current role.

"Before this role was developed there was no one that was specifically looking at suicide in the mental health service. Now that my position is here it has assisted the mental health service to focus on the needs of people who are suicidal and their families. I've been able to address these and implement improvements through collaboration with people with lived experience and other networks."

Pippa is involved with providing SafeSide education for suicide prevention. She has also worked with the Agency for Clinical Innovation to develop the Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD Suicide Care Pathway and worked with the statewide working group on developing safety planning to be built into the NSW Health Electronic Medical Records (eMR) system.

Currently, Pippa is leading several quality improvement projects across mental health as well as involved with a whole of health working group for suicide, self-harm and deteriorating mental state to ensure a consistent approach.

"I've also been working at introducing a restorative and just learning culture across mental health," she says.

Pippa is championing quality improvement through design, testing and quality review. People are getting on board, and need only to look at how the initiative has benefited the Illawarra Shoalhaven community to know that Zero Suicides in Care is all pros and no cons.

The momentum of the movement of Towards Zero Suicide continues to grow and sharing what works with others and learning from them brings energy to Pippa.

"They came up and said they'd heard about the initiative and wanted to learn from me. I don't like awards or anything, but it is really nice to hear other people say they see the value in what you do and would like to learn from you," she says.

It is thanks to that high value placed on collaboration that gives Pippa great confidence in the future of the initiative.

"We've had a great response. Our executives are all on board, which has been a huge benefit because they see the value in having a consistent approach to suicide prevention and we're very lucky to have some great organisations in Illawarra Shoalhaven that help with that."

Like all TZS initiatives, Zero Suicides in Care continues to evolve. But the basics remain the same, bolstered by the compassion of staff who are always ready to learn more so they can continue to save lives – and improve them.

"Wherever you go in our community, you're getting a very common language and consistent approach and that's what Zero Suicides in Care is about - it's much better because ultimately suicide prevention, we're doing it for people" Pippa says.

"We're not doing it for ourselves. And I think that's the main thing to remember. You're doing it because you care for someone you might not even know, and you want to provide the best care you can."

"Hopefully one day suicide prevention will be seamless. It'll be easy and without any stigma or shame. Staff will have the same fundamental approach and patients and their families can expect the consistent care they need across the community."

To learn more about Zero Suicides in Care, visit Towards Zero Suicides.

Current as at: Thursday 23 March 2023
Contact page owner: Mental Health