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Talking about Suicide Saves Lives: Prevention Is as Important as Intervention

By Jean-Christian Gagnon, PSP Ottawa Health Promotion –

Becoming a better advocate for suicide prevention doesn’t just mean intervening appropriately when someone around us is at a crisis point  (more on this in our final article – stay tuned!). It also means attending to and acting upon preventive measures, that is, factors which counterbalance the risk factors of suicide.

Improving mental health often needs a similar approach to dealing with physical health. We don’t stop exercising when we are feeling healthy, and we shouldn’t stop taking care of our mental health when we don’t feel in-crisis. How do we help prevent those feelings from arising, either in someone close to us, or in ourselves? Key to this is strengthening protective factors like strong social connections, stress management skills, and mental health awareness, creating an ongoing process that helps to “counter suicide risk and build resilience for individuals, families and communities.”(The Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, p. 36) This week, we invite you to learn about how we can reduce suicide risk even before a crisis arises.

Below is a list of protective factors against suicide outlined in the Canadian Armed Forces-Veterans Affairs Canada (CAF-VAC) Joint Suicide Prevention Strategy along with some resources and strategies to act upon them. Given that there are multiple factors contributing to suicide rather than one single cause, this means that it is best to fill our plate with a variety of protective factors in order to attain/maintain good mental health and build resilience.


Take a few moments to assess the extent to which these protective factors are integrated to your current lifestyle. One may put in much effort in developing and maintaining a strong physical health, while neglecting time for maintaining social bonds. Finding a healthy balance is a lifelong challenge that requires reflection and action. Remember that there are resources at your disposal to help you achieve a balanced lifestyle, and that respond to your personal needs. Most importantly, remember that you are not alone!!

If you are in distress or concerned about someone, here are some resources that are at your disposal:

CAF Resources

Family Information Line 1-800-866-4546

CF Member Assistance Program 1-800-268-7708

CF Mental Health Services (NCR) 613-945-1111

Civilian Resources

Employee Assistance Service (DND employees) 1-800-268-7708

Employee Assistance Program (NPF employees) 1-800-361-5676

NCR Community Resources

Mental Health Crisis Line 1-866-996-0991

1-866-APPELLE (Québec) 1-866-277-3553

Photo: Richard Guertin, ADM(PA). ©2019 DND/MDN Canada.

This post is also available in: Français (French)

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