Preventing Suicide

Injury Prevention & Safety, Information for Health Professionals

Suicide ideation, attempts and deaths affect us all. Yet it is often difficult to talk about due to feelings of fear, shame and guilt. Let's talk about it.

Together, we can prevent suicide.

REACH Pathway

Use the REACH (Recognize, Engage, Ask, Connect, and Heal) pathway when helping your client, patient or resident.

R - RECOGNIZE warning signs and risk factors

  • People who are thinking of suicide can often show signs, such as talking about death or suicide, losing interest in activities, giving away possessions or talking about being a burden.
  • Some challenging or traumatic life events can be considered risk factors for suicide, such as chronic illness, death of a loved one, or a previous suicide attempt.
  • Learn more about warning signs and risk factors by taking Suicide Prevention, Risk Assessment & Management (SPRAM) training modules 1 to 3 or by reading Warning Signs of Suicide.

E - ENGAGE in conversation and listen with empathy.

  • Make time to have an important conversation with your client, patient or resident. Ask a coworker to cover other work if needed.
  • Go to a quiet place or remove distractions.
  • Show you are listening by giving your full attention.
  • Show empathy and validate their feelings.
  • Use appropriate language to talk about suicide. Read more at The Language of Suicide.

A - ASK about suicidal thoughts and feelings.

  • Be clear and direct, “Are you thinking about suicide?”
  • Name warning signs and risk factors you are concerned about.
  • If they say yes or no, let them know you can help connect to supports. Thank them for sharing and acknowledge their strength.

C - CONNECT to supports and resources. Explore their strengths and protective factors.

  • Explore their previous coping strategies by asking, 'How have you gotten through tough times previously?' You can then ask what about it was helpful or not.
  • Help your client to identify skills and strengths they currently have. Ask, 'Are there things you do, think about or notice that bring you comfort and safety?'
  • Name any strengths you see. For example, 'you have a lot of courage to talk about this.'
  • Work together to determine the best supports. 'What type of support would help you feel safe?'
  • Direct individuals to:
    • Call Health Link at 811 or the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 to find out what services are in their area or to speak to a mental health therapist.
    • Contact the federal First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Individuals can also access an online chat at Hope for Wellness.
    • Call 911, if they are in immediate danger, and stay with them until help arrives.

H - HEAL ourselves by taking care of our own mental health.

Health professionals can often experience compassion fatigue and burnout from helping others. It is important to take care of our own mental health after helping someone.

  • Know your boundaries.
  • Engage in healthy coping strategies.
  • Recognize when you are not coping well.
  • Reach out for support when you need it.

World Suicide Prevention Day

World Suicide Prevention Day, held annually on September 10th, is an initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), and is co-sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO). This day provides opportunities to focus public attention on the burden and costs of suicidal behaviours, as well as to highlight diverse activities that promote understanding about suicide, and suicide prevention.

Watch and share the AHS video.

For further information please refer to the The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) website.

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

Every year, on the third Saturday in November, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) sponsors International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, a day that unites survivors of suicide loss across the world. At events in hundreds of cities spanning 6 continents, survivors of suicide loss gather together to remember their loved ones and offer each other support. Events aim to help survivors cope with the tragedy of losing someone to suicide.