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October 27, 2017 06:08 PM

Avera Health Shares Results From 'Zero Suicide' Initiative

Avera Health joined the national Zero Suicide initiative last year. Since that time, the system has changed the way it helps patients having suicidal thoughts. Now, it's seeing dramatic results. 

"The results, frankly, were pleasantly startling," Steve Lindquist said.

Lindquist is the assistant vice president for Avera Behavioral Health. He says since joining the Zero Suicide initiative, Avera has seen a 97-percent drop in future suicide attempts after a person is initially hospitalized.

"We try to help people who are suicidal and support them through that crisis. Help those who are around them so that we don't see suicides as a result," Lindquist said. 

It's working. There's also been a 98-percent decrease in emergency room visits involving people who were previously hospitalized for a suicide risk in Sioux Falls, Aberdeen or Marshall. Lindquist says the initiative also included changing their approach to depression and suicide.

"Someone can be suicidal without being depressed. Someone can be depressed without being suicidal. So we focused more on the suicidal thinking and the suicidal behaviors and have initiated ways to teach individuals how to deal with those thoughts," Lindquist said. 

While some of these changes might seem like common sense, they're making a big difference. Along with educating the patient, Avera is giving tools to the person's family and friends. 

"Well, I'm thinking about taking an overdose of pills. Well let's just get the pills out of the way. Let's have your family control those. Put them in a place where you don't have access. Certainly, the same thing with guns. Much more lethal than any other means of suicide attempt. There's those kinds of things and then the follow up care is very important," Lindquist said. 

From a partnership with the Helpline Center to a variety of Avera Behavioral Health Care services, there are a lot of ways people who are struggling are getting help through the Zero Suicide initiative.

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