Safe Communities

Safe Communities Madison-Dane County

Would you recognize suicide risk if you saw it?

suicide prevention

In Dane County we lose 40-50 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. View Dane County data from State of Wisconsin Burden of Suicide Report.

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.

Our Strategy:  Safe Communities Suicide Prevention Task Force

  • Work with partners to train at least 500 people each year on QPR - Question, Persuade, Refer (see description below)
  • Through dissemination of gun locks and promotion of MedDrop, reduce easy access to lethal means of suicide among those at risk
  •  Reach our highest at-risk group - middle aged men - through another evidence-based treatment resource called Mantherapy 

Zero Suicide 

The Zero Suicide Initiative (ZSI) is based on the belief that suicide is preventable, not inevitable. It employs proven strategies within communities and healthcare systems to partner with patients and reduce their risk. This approach originated from work done in several healthcare systems, including Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) in Michigan. Their initial work on "Perfect Depression Care" led over the course of several years to the impressive results of an 80% reduction in the suicide rate among health plan members. Attend the Zero Suicide Conference, June 7-8, 2016 at the Sheraton Hotel, 706 John Nolen Drive, Madison. More information will be available soon. Click here for a printable flyer with conference details. Registration is not open at this time, please check back for more details. Conference is sponsored by Safe Communities, Meriter-UnityPoint Health, Dane County Human Services, The Charles E. Kubly Foundation, and additional funding by Meriter Foundation, Journey Mental Health Center and The Medical Staff of UnityPoint, Meriter Hospital.

What are the Core Concepts of the ZSI approach?

  • Suicde 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. 

QPR Training Class | Tuesday, June 28, 2016 
First United Methodist Church | 203 Wisconsin Ave., Madison, WI | 12:00-1:15 p.m.

QPR Training Class | Tuesday, July 26, 2016 
First United Methodist Church | 203 Wisconsin Ave., Madison, WI | 12:00-1:15 p.m.

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)
For Veterans Press 1, En Español Oprima El 2

Thanks to Dane County for its generous financial support of Safe Communities, and to all Suicide Prevention Task Force members for their commitment of time and resources to this collaborative effort.


Man Therapy

Safe Communities, along with partners such as Dane County Department of Human Services and Mental Health America Wisconsin teamed up in 2014 to bring awareness to men's mental wellness with a Man Therapy campaign. Man Therapy is an internet-based resource with wellness and actionable solutions in one website (, led by an engaging and offbeat fictional therapist named Dr. Rich Mahogany. Although he is a fictional and very funny character, the intent is very serious: to bring awareness and action to the stigma associated with men’s mental health issues.     

It's a fact that depression, anxiety, anger, substance abuse and relationship crisis contribute to suicidal thoughts, but a lesser-known fact is male depression is undiagnosed in 50 to 65 percent of cases. Men die by suicide at a rate much higher than women, but research says it's not that men have a higher rate of depression, they exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Resist asking for help
  • Tend not to acknowledge mental health problems or
  • Are naive to the connection to their physical well-being

Gone is the off-putting mental health jargon, the hand-holding, women embracing men photos, with help line phone numbers employing you to call. Man Therapy meets men wherever they are. Man Therapy:

  • Is available anonymously online
  • Uses quirky humor to engage viewers in an unusual, unexpected way
  • Offers links to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  • Shows testimonials of real everyday men, not just celebrities, taking control of life challenges
  • Coaches and empowers men with do it yourself solutions to maintain and troubleshoot issues
  • Offers suggestions to help friends in need
  • Features a ’Worried about Someone‘ section, which includes a quiz and ways to help a loved one/friend in need

Guys' Night Out: Man Therapy

In 2014, Safe Communities hosted a 'Guy's Night Out' event in Madison. It was a successful event where attendees learned about Man Therapy and the importance of mental health and wellness for working-age men. This is especially important because men in Dane County who are ages 25-54 are three times more likely than women to complete suicide. It happens to men ages 45-54 the most. These are our fathers, brothers, sons and friends. The Man Therapy campaign is part of a multi-agency effort, locally with Safe Communities Madison-Dane County, Dane County Department of Human Services and Mental Health America of Wisconsin, and nationally with the Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention, Carson J Spencer Foundation, and Cactus, a Colorado-based advertising agency. Click for more information.