Safe Communities

Safe Communities Madison-Dane County

Would you recognize suicide risk if you saw it?

suicide prevention

In Dane County we lose 50-60 people each year to suicide; 500 are hospitalized or admitted to emergency departments due to injuries sustained during suicide attempts. Suicide is the number one cause of violent death: 74% of violent deaths are suicides.

The good news: research tells us that 90% of people who die from suicide have a treatable mental illness or a substance abuse disorder. We know that suicide is often preventable with education, treatment and support. Because suicide is such a complex public health problem the Surgeon General recommends that we engage in prevention strategies community by community to be effective.

Zero Suicide Initiative - Conference Held June 7-8, 2016

Zero Suicide ConferenceOver 170 participants attended to learn about and support an audacious goal:  Making suicide a "never event" in our community. 

93% of evaluation respondents (111 out of 119) will change their practice or the way they work with patients or clients.

94% gave the conference high marks.


High level, then dug into the "how". This made it very valuable, doesn't  often happen at conferences.

Excited to implement changes in my private practice.

I feel energized and am looking forward to sharing this information with my agency - and with my family and friends as well. Thank you.

Our conference speakers shared encouragement:

Congratulations again on an OUTSTANDING ZS Conference - I was thrilled and honored to be a part of it... Ed Coffey 

Thank you so much for the chance to spend some time with you all this week working on suicide prevention. You all are truly ahead of the game and leaders in this space. Becky Stoll

As you move this project forward in Dane County ... I look forward to our continued collaboration! Brian Ahmedani 

What's next?  

Please let us know if you'd like to be involved:

Launch of the Gun Shop Project: Over the next few months we will be producing and distributing materials and training to area gun shops on suicide prevention. As mentioned during the conference, our coordinator, Jean Papalia, has already reached out to gun shop owners and plans are in the works. More to come!

 Monthly QPR sessions, and more available upon request: QPR is evidence-based training that aims to teach anyone how to prevent a suicide by recognizing the warning signs, to offer hope and to know how to get help to save a life. First United Methodist Church hosts QPR each month, taught by Jean Papalia.

Help us promote MedDrop! 

Disposing of unused medicines reduces access to lethal means and can be part of safety planning with clients, families and friends. All Dane County residents are just minutes from a MedDrop location. Click here for a listing.

 Additional Resources:

Zero Suicide Toolkit is on-line: Find tools required to implement Zero Suicide principles within your organization at

Begin a conversation with colleagues and organization leaders using this one-page fact sheet "What is Zero Suicide
Hot off the Presses: Health Affairs features Zero Suicide: 
See "Suicide Prevention: An Emerging Priority for Health Care.  

Please contact Mary Zimmerman, Zero Suicide Project Coordinator at for more information. Thank you! 

What are the Core Concepts of the ZSI approach?

  • Suicide deaths for people under care are preventable.
  • Treatment of depression alone will not effectively prevent suicidality. 
  • The bold goal of zero suicides among persons receiving care is one that health systems should embrace.
  • The goal requires a system-wide approach involving the broader community.
  • The approach is based on the realization that suicidal individuals often fall through multiple cracks in fragmented healthcare systems. 
  • Key areas of focus are means reduction, including eliminating suicide locations within communities. 

What is different about the ZSI approach? 

  • A Collaborative Safety Plan (formulated by the patient and provider) is completed with every patient experiencing suicidality. 
  • This Safety Plan discussion must include "means reduction" (how to eliminate access to guns and other methods of suicide).
  • A "warm hand-off" is conducted, which means a follow-up appointment with an outpatient provider is made while the patient is still in the hospital or clinic.
  • A follow-up phone call is made within 72 hours to patients discharged from the Emergency Room, an impatient unit or a clinic visit with a Collaborative Safety Plan.

 QPR Training

Safe Communities offers a free QPR (Question Persuade Refer) training where participants learn the warning signs for suicide, how to offer hope, and how to seek help to save a life.

QPR is CPR for Suicide Prevention. QPR stands for:

  • Question the person about suicide
  • Persuade the person to get help
  • Refer them for help

Send us an e-mail for more information or free QPR training. 

Suicide Prevention Gatekeepers

A gatekeeper is someone trained to recognize a suicide crisis and, because of their training, knows how and where to find help. 

  • QPR gatekeeper training takes just one hour and is taught in a format that is clear, concise, and applicable for a wide variety of audiences. Gatekeepers are given information that is easy to understand, and reinforced by a QPR booklet and card complete with warning signs, methods to encourage a person to get help and a list of resources available in your community.
  • QPR recognizes that even socially isolated individuals usually have some sort of contact within their community (e.g. family, doctors, teachers, employer, banker, counselor, etc.) QPR teaches diverse groups within each community how to recognize the "real crises" of suicide and the symptoms that accompany it.
  • QPR addresses high-risk people within their own environments (verses requiring the individual to initiate requests for support or treatment on their own).
  • QPR offers the increased possibility of intervention early in the depressive and/or suicidal crisis (when the level of suicide may be less).
  • QPR encourages the gatekeeper to take the individual directly to a treatment provider and/or community resource.
  • QPR stresses active follow-up on each intervention that occurs.The individual trained in QPR often plays a preexisting role in the at-risk person's life. This increases the sense of continuity, support likelihood of a positive resolution.

2016 QPR Training Classes

No registration required. Class is free of charge. 

2017 QPR Training Dates Coming Soon!


Send us an e-mail for more information or free QPR training. 

"Thank you for this amazing training. It was very helpful to me and you presented difficult materials very well. I still can’t believe the number of suicides in Wisconsin. I would have never guessed. I am sharing this information with other groups." - Lisa, QPR Class Participant

Suicide Crisis Line Numbers:  

Dane County Suicide Crisis Line: (608) 280-2600

National Suicide Prevention Line:
1-800-273-TALK (8255)
1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
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