Towards Zero Suicide

South Australia’s journey towards reducing harm and saving lives.

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Towards Zero Suicide is a clinically proven, proactive and effective approach for best-practice suicide prevention care and support for people in contact with healthcare services. This approach has successfully reduced suicide rates both within Australia and overseas.

Key statistics

Across Australia and South Australia in 2019, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics:

  • suicide was the leading cause of death in Australia, for people aged between 15 and 49 and the second leading cause of death for people aged between 50 and 54
  • both the Australian and South Australian suicide numbers increased from 2018
  • in Australia, the death rate from suicide was 2.1 times higher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when compared with non-Aboriginal people
  • in South Australia, the death rate from suicide was 1.4 times higher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when compared to non-Aboriginal people

Working Towards Zero Suicide

Working Towards Zero Suicide as an approach to suicide prevention is a key priority within the South Australian Mental Health Services Plan 2020-25.

Towards Zero Suicide is an approach that can help everyone. It helps people who may experience thoughts about harming themselves or ending their life by allowing them to:

  • feel safe talking to health professionals about how they are feeling
  • receive the right support, better understand how they are feeling, and know how to take action to help them feel better

The approach also educates and guides health professionals, and effectively supports people and their families.

About Towards Zero Suicide 

Towards Zero Suicide
Towards Zero Suicide is Towards Zero Suicide is not
A journey towards zero suicides as an aspirational goal Achieving a target or a zero tolerance approach
A long-term improvement approach A quick fix
Understanding and acceptance that suicidal feelings can change, do change, and that with effective intervention and support, suicides for people in contact with healthcare services, are preventable Believing that suicides are inevitable
Working systematically to identify those at risk through consistent and effective screening Making assumptions about what someone may be thinking or feeling
Working together with consumers presenting in distress, providing a safe space and listening non-judgementally Knowing what is best for someone else
Learning organisations that listen non-judgementally and involve everyone in developing solutions, even when things go wrong Fault-finding and seeking someone to blame when things go wrong

The following animation, developed by David W Covington LPC, is a Zero Suicide Healthcare call to action.

Making effective change - a toolkit for health professionals

A framework to support effective implementation has been developed by the Zero Suicide Centre in the United States. This Zero Suicide Toolkit consists of seven elements:

  • LEAD system-wide culture change committed to reducing suicides
  • TRAIN a competent, confident, and caring workforce up-to-date in suicide care
  • IDENTIFY patients with suicide risk via comprehensive screenings
  • ENGAGE all individuals at-risk of suicide in a suicide care management plan
  • TREAT suicidal thoughts and behaviours using evidence-based treatments
  • TRANSITION individuals through care with warm hands-off and supportive contacts
  • IMPROVE policies and procedures through a continuous quality improvement plan

Restorative Just Culture

An effective Restorative Just Culture provides a foundation to effective suicide care. A Restorative Just Culture engages with people receiving care and support, their families and staff providing the Care and support to develop a culture of trust, learning, support and accountability.

A Restorative Just Culture provides a working environment which actively promotes and fosters good mental wellbeing for staff, even when things go wrong. Staff feel supported to raise concerns, contribute their viewpoint and receive timely support when they need it.

This type of culture focuses on recovery, healing and learning for all. When something goes wrong, the following questions are asked:

  • Who has been hurt?
  • What are their needs?
  • Whose obligations are these?
  • How do we involve the community?

Everyone impacted is involved in understanding what happened and contributes to organisational learning.

See the infographic explaining the key elements of Restorative Just Culture (PDF 118KB).

Lived experience

The leadership of people with lived experience is central to the Towards Zero Suicide approach. 

Tracey tells her story in this short video produced by the Zero Suicide Institute of Australasia.

System-wide culture change means engaging with staff to develop and implement a culture based on restorative principles that work for everyone.

Project timelines

The Towards Zero Suicide Project is working with the South Australia’s Local Health Networks and Primary Health Networks to implement evidence informed practices in line with the approach over the next four years.


Office of the Chief Psychiatrist