Suicide is a practical act, suicide prevention means practical actions — do you want to help save lives?

We know enough about how to save lives to say it’s time for action — practical action!

Paul Vittles
8 min readSep 15, 2020

The Global ‘Zero Suicide Community’, collaborative initiatives across the UK, regional & local partnerships, and a dynamic network of people with Lived Experience of suicide loss, have been coming together in 2020 to highlight actions to save lives — inspiring others with their thinking, their passion, their demonstration of ‘what works’, and their belief that most suicides are preventable so we must be more focused on those actions that save lives.

Stakeholders often refer to ‘building’ a framework, and ‘building layers of support’ — hence the ‘building’ analogy. We have strong foundations as a (global, national, and local) ‘zero suicide community’, taking both top-down leadership approaches (eg what can government do, and what do we want government to do?) and ground-up leadership (what can we do, in many cases independent of government?). We’ve then identified and developed four key layers to help us build strong sustainable infrastructure, purpose-designed to save lives.

This is an edited version of my longer piece (link immediately below) published just before World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 #WSPD2020 (which featured the amazing OneTeamGov event #OTGSP with 928 people from government, businesses, and charities signed-up)...

The OneTeamGov event videos are all now available, along with this Resources Pack, compiled around the event:

This blog has a focus on a call for action-oriented partners to join us!

I’ve spent the past 7 years working in the field of suicide prevention, and I’ve learned a lot including, with the ‘right’ thinking and practical steps, we can move towards zero suicides. Which makes it all the more tragic that we have more than 6,000 deaths by suicide each year in the UK, more than 3,000 deaths by suicide each year in Australia, almost 50,000 deaths by suicide last year in the US, 1 million deaths by suicide each year globally, and someone somewhere in the world taking their own life every 40 seconds.

I’ve spent the past year facilitating community & stakeholder engagement with people in the growing global ‘Zero Suicide Community’ — who share a belief we can transform this tragic landscape, and who are taking practical steps in their paid-for and/or pro bono work to move towards zero suicides.

I’ve decided to devote myself to working with those who share the belief that we can transform the suicide and suicide prevention landscapes and move towards zero suicides; who want to take practical steps to realise that vision; and who, in many cases, are already taking the practical actions required.

One of the biggest barriers to transformation is the institutional tendency to set low ambition targets, most commonly “10% reduction in suicides in the next 5 years”, even though the evidence, eg from MerseyCare (30% reduction in suicides in 3 years), shows that much more can be achieved.

How can you help challenge this structural conservatism? How can you help take the ‘pockets of transformation’ and put them into the mainstream, or at least help others apply what’s known to work elsewhere?

The evidence tells us that ‘most suicides are preventable’ (eg interviews with those who’ve survived suicide attempts commonly saying ‘I didn’t want to die, it’s just — at that moment — I could no longer live with the pain…’ or ‘it seemed like there was no other option’.

So we must raise our ambition and take the steps we know we can take to move towards zero suicide.

I’ve recently bonded with (shared values, shared philosophy, shared goals), and now formally partnered with, Steve Phillip who lost his son Jordan to suicide in December 2019 and has established the Jordan Legacy CIC as part of his practical steps to help others and save lives.

Steve was one of the Speakers for the OneTeamGov #WSPD2020 event, he’s become a highly dynamic member of the ‘Zero Suicide Community’ and an enthusiastic embracer of the Suicide Prevention Transformation Projects (SPTPs). This is reflected in the Mission and Vision of the Jordan Legacy CIC:

Experience has taught me that working from the ground-up; engaging with people who have lived experience of suicide, especially those who’ve lost loved ones, like Steve Phillip (and 10 other Speakers at the OneTeamGov #WSPD2020 event), is the best way to work with a group totally committed to the transformation goals, with belief that it can be achieved, needing to have hope, needing to ‘do something’, and focusing on practical steps to help:

As it says on the Jordan Legacy CIC website Our Mission page:

“The act of suicide is a practical act — it needs practical actions to prevent it”.

Myself and Steve, and the other Jordan Legacy Partners, and the Zero Suicide Community, have identified the (evidence-and-experienced-informed and ground-up-innovation-stimulated) practical steps that ‘work’ in saving lives. Hence the Suicide Prevention Transformation Projects (SPTPs) and the Suicide/Suicide Prevention Transformation Model.

The global Zero Suicide Community provides excellent foundations. Ground-up leadership from the smaller charities, community projects (eg tailored action at ‘suicide hotspots’) and from people with Lived Experience is combining with top-down leadership, each with enormous potential to be more effective. We’re building the twin pillars of optimal mental health and zero suicide with a supporting infrastructure, as outlined below.

Mentally healthy and psychologically safe workplaces are crucial. Most people aged 18–59 spend most of their day in some form of workplace community. We’re not forgetting unemployed people (and with the suicide rate historically increasing by 0.79% for every 1% rise in the unemployment rate, this is a group we must support more effectively), or teenagers or students or older people (who struggle coming to terms with retirement, or become suicidal after losing a lifelong partner), but we know we have large numbers of 18–59 year olds ‘at work’ and often ‘at risk’.

Several surveys (eg the Australian Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance) have shown 45% of employees have left an employer (or manager?) due to having a work environment that was not mentally healthy. And we’ve heard about people bullied at work, going to the HR Dept to seek support, only to be bullied by the HR Dept!

Studies like the recent analysis by Deloitte shows how employers can get a considerable return from investment in workplace mental health:

So, it’s essential to ‘build that layer’ of mentally healthy ‘communities at work’.

Above that in the model are two related layers — Design Out Suicide and Zero Suicide Plans.

This includes the proven ‘Zero Suicide in Healthcare’ framework, but it extends out into Social Care, and into the broader community.

The Design Out Suicide layer is a collective heading for a series of projects and initiatives to design out suicide risks and dangers at source, incorporating everything we’ve learned from disciplines like human-centred design thinking, and process (re)engineering.

(Community) Zero Suicide Plans is a ground-up engagement approach. We (in fact you) identify what constitutes the ‘community’ — a geographic community, a demographic community, a community of interest, a professional community, a community at work — your community!

Then we work with the dynamics of your community, for natural engagement, commitment and action, using templates and a menu of evidence-based actions you can take. Each ‘community’ makes a collective commitment to deliver its Zero Suicide Plan with, ideally, a commitment to publishing it so other ‘communities’ can engage in collective learning and shared success.

Design Out Suicide is a process (re)engineering and human-centred design thinking approach to suicide prevention and effective early intervention systems that de-constructs the process people who are suicidal put in place to take their own lives (their plan, the key steps in their plan, how they plan to kill themselves, where they plan to do it, etc.)…

…and re-designs it to build-in every possible safeguard, physical barrier to access to the means of suicide, and available support — technological and human — to prevent suicide activation or completion; and save lives, or at least give a chronically distressed person a chance to think again. We engage with architects, construction companies, designers, engineers, surveyors, etc.

In our top layer (at present), we have technology solutions, working hand-in-hand with human intelligence and human support systems, partnering with leading tech firms such Augmented Intelligence pioneers, Houston We Have:

We’ve identified at least two routes to transformation via applications of technology, and we already have the technological ability to achieve these breakthroughs, so we’re working on the other issues — ‘the will’, the human logistics, the ethical dimensions, the detail of the complementary human support systems.

DigitalLifeSaving is a term we’ve used since the launch in 2014 at TEDxSydney to cover technology solutions to identify those in suicide danger where we would not otherwise know the person was in danger (no past history of mental illness, never accessed the health & social care system, just fine one day and in crisis the next, usually due to a sudden loss experience), and have appropriate and effective interventions, along with systems learning to improve prevention, using tools like Augmented Intelligence;

TrackingForLife covers tools and apps for helping to keep safe those in known suicide danger where we do know who the individual is, eg. helping make sure they get home safely after discharge from hospital (in several countries, we’ve found that around one in four people who take their own lives have been discharged from hospital within the past 90 days — we often know a lot about these people and must get better at supporting them to stay alive). The latest available tools can alert relevant authorities, or nominated supports, when those with known suicidality are literally ‘in the danger zone’.

In the transformation model, we’ve combined the various projects and initiatives under the banner “Life Saving Systems” because there are numerous examples of technology and human intelligence coming together to create, sustain, and enhance systems that are capable of earlier identification, earlier intervention, and more effective suicide prevention.

If you can help us take the practical steps towards transforming the suicide and suicide prevention landscapes, to move towards communities without suicide — with many micro zeros eventually adding up to a macro zero — PLEASE JOIN US!!!

After all, what else could be more important than saving lives?!

Paul Vittles is an economist, researcher, consultant, community engagement pioneer, coach, counsellor, and facilitator. After three decades of practical transformation, working with government at all levels in the UK and Australia (including more than 80 councils, and many more attending Paul’s talks and workshops), Paul is now a Transformational Change Consultant(and a Sustainable Success Coach — taking into account optimal mental health, ethical practice, and human sustainability designed-in to business models).

Paul lectures at Business Schools on “Facilitating Transformational Change: Vision, Strategy, Engagement, Delivery”. Much of his practice is focused on transformational change in suicide prevention to move towards zero suicide.



Paul Vittles

Researcher (FMRS), marketer (FAMI), consultant, coach & counsellor who helps people and organisations with transformational change and sustainable success.