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Zero Suicide Institute releases toolkit to help pediatric health systems prevent suicide


Resource for children’s hospitals builds upon the work of the Cardinal Health Foundation’s  Preventing Youth Suicide Collaborative

By WyKisha Thomas-McKinney, senior project associate with EDC, a nonprofit that oversees the work of Zero Suicide Institute

The issue of pediatric suicide has become an increasingly urgent concern: Among youth in the U.S. who die, more than 25% die from suicide, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24.

Pediatric suicide presents particular challenges due to developmental considerations, communication barriers, limited access to mental health resources, and other factors. Children's hospitals play a crucial role in addressing these challenges by providing specialized care for young patients and their families. However, integrating suicide prevention efforts into pediatric healthcare requires a tailored approach that recognizes the unique needs of these systems.

In response to the unique needs of at-risk pediatric populations, Zero Suicide Institute at EDC, supported by the Cardinal Health Foundation, has created a groundbreaking adaptation of the Zero Suicide Toolkit specifically for implementing the Zero Suicide framework in children's hospitals. Today, the organizations have announced the release the  Zero Suicide Toolkit for Children's Hospitals, in honor of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

The Zero Suicide framework is a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention that operates under the principle that every suicide death is preventable. Originally developed for adult populations, with the support of the Cardinal Health Foundation and Children's Hospital Association (CHA), the framework has been adapted to address the distinct challenges faced by systems serving children and adolescents. At its core, Zero Suicide emphasizes a systematic, data-driven approach to identifying and supporting individuals at risk of suicide, integrating suicide prevention practices into routine healthcare settings.

To date, the Cardinal Health Foundation has invested nearly $6 million to support hospitals and health systems nationwide with suicide prevention. The Foundation began this work in 2020 in partnership with Zero Suicide Institute, funding a cohort of health systems that included nine children’s hospitals as well as eight adult hospitals. In 2022, the Foundation partnered with both Zero Suicide Institute and Children’s Hospital Association and focused the work solely on children’s hospitals. The Foundation has since funded two cohorts of grantees, bringing the total number of pediatric health systems that have received training and adopted the Zero Suicide framework to 39.

The Zero Suicide Institute's toolkit adaptation is built from the Cardinal Health Foundation-funded work of the collaborative, and represents a significant step forward in pediatric suicide prevention.

“At Cardinal Health, we're committed to investing in the mental wellbeing of our communities and our employees," said Jessie Cannon, vice president of Community Relations at Cardinal Health. "We're proud to support the work of Zero Suicide Institute, the CHA and children's hospitals to reduce pediatric suicide." When the Cardinal Health grant funding period ends in 2025, the CHA will continue the work of the collaborative. “We firmly believe that this program will make a lasting impact in the lives of children and their families,” Cannon said.

Thie Zero Suicide Toolkit for Children's Hospitals provides child and youth-serving systems with practical guidance, tools, and strategies for implementing the Zero Suicide framework effectively.

Key components of the toolkit adaptation include:

  1. Developmentally appropriate screening tools: The toolkit adaptation offers insight on evidence-based screening tools and assessment protocols tailored to pediatric populations, considering developmental stages and communication barriers.
  2. Training and education modules: Healthcare professionals across all disciplines can learn about specialized training modules on suicide risk assessment, intervention techniques, and postvention strategies for children and adolescents.
  3. Family-centered care guidelines: Recognizing the importance of family dynamics in pediatric healthcare, 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 healthcare workflows, including primary care, emergency departments, and specialty clinics.

Benefits of implementing the toolkit adaptation: By leveraging the resources provided in the Zero Suicide Toolkit and this adaptation, children's hospitals can:

  • Identify and intervene with at-risk children and adolescents at an earlier stage, potentially preventing suicide attempts and  deaths by suicide.
  • Enhance collaboration and communication among healthcare 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 healthcare settings.
  • Improve patient outcomes and satisfaction by providing comprehensive, family-centered care that addresses the unique needs of pediatric populations.

As child and youth-serving systems embrace these evidence-based practices and work together to address the unique challenges of pediatric suicide prevention, we can move closer to zero suicides among children and youth.

WyKisha Thomas-McKinney, EDC senior project associate, is a national expert in mental health promotion and suicide prevention. A highly skilled leader and dedicated advocate and spokesperson, she brings over 20 years of experience in nonprofit program development, program management, evaluation, public speaking, and consultation. She specializes in influencing systemic change and breaking down the stigma of suicide through outreach and education.

About Zero Suicide Institute
Zero Suicide is a way to improve suicide care within health and behavioral health systems. The foundational belief of Zero Suicide is that suicide deaths for individuals under the care of health and behavioral health systems are preventable. For systems dedicated to improving patient safety, Zero Suicide presents an aspirational challenge and practical framework for system-wide transformation toward safer suicide care. The Institute is part of the EDC, or Education Development Center, a global nonprofit that advances lasting solutions to improve education, promote health, and expand economic opportunity. With expertise in areas such as suicide prevention, early childhood development and learning, and youth workforce development, EDC collaborates with public and private partners to create, deliver, and evaluate programs, services, and products.

About Children’s Hospital Association
The Children's Hospital Association brings together the clinical and administrative leaders of children's hospitals to create meaningful change in children's health care and child health. Through collaboration, improvement, opportunities and advocacy, we can make progress on the issues facing children's hospitals and the communities they serve.

About Cardinal Health
Cardinal Health is a distributor of pharmaceuticals, a global manufacturer and distributor of medical and laboratory products, and a provider of performance and data solutions for healthcare facilities. With more than 50 years in business, operations in more than 30 countries and approximately 48,000 employees globally, Cardinal Health is essential to care. Information about Cardinal Health is available at

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