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Working together to build suicide-safer communities

By Jean-Christian Gagnon, PSP Ottawa Health Promotion –

Ranking 9th in leading causes of mortality in Canada, suicide is seen as the ultimate pitfall of mental health. All of us are directly or indirectly affected by such an act of despair, hence we should actively participate in building a suicide-safer community. Below are some hard, cold facts around suicide in Canada, highlighting the importance of promoting awareness and teaching intervention skills to better assist people in distress.

  • On average, 10 Canadians die by suicide every day.
  • There is one suicide every 131 minutes in Canada.
  • There is 4400 suicide deaths in Canada each year.
  • For every suicide, there are
    • 5 self-inflicted injury hospitalizations
    • 25-30 suicide attempts
    • 7-10 people profoundly affected by suicide loss[1],[2]

Given the high prevalence and severe implications of suicide around the globe, The World Health Organization designated September 10th as the World Suicide Prevention Day to raise awareness and to mobilize communities in taking concrete action to help prevent suicide.

September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day #WSPD18

“What are some concrete actions one might take to contribute to a suicide-safer community?” you might ask. Well, the answer is twofold and complementary: it requires taking take care of yourself and of those around you. We invite you to reflect on how you might tweak your own self-care habits and your social interactions to contribute to a more positive environment for mental health.


We all have our own daily recipe to feel good physically and mentally. When our busy routine throws us off-track, we often notice that we have given up on the habits (big and small) that bring us joy and energy. In such cases, we are left feeling overwhelmed and powerless. We don’t eat as healthy as usual, we spend most of our day inactive, we don’t make time to see friends as much, and so on. Ironic, right? Shouldn’t we be doing the exact opposite instead; that is, double our self-care efforts to navigate effectively through busier and more challenging times (e.g., getting back in the Fall routine)? What is your Holy Grail to experience ease and contentment day to day? It might include some of the following:

  1. Taking some “me” time in the morning. Hate being rushed every morning? Consider going to bed earlier and wake-up half an hour early to start your day off the right foot. Many successful individuals swear by their morning self-care routine before going on with their busy day.
  2. Physical activity. The Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT) recently recommended exercise as a first line treatment for mild to moderate depression[3]. Want to amplify the mood-boosting properties of exercise? Engage in physical activity outdoors! More and more scientific evidence show promise for the potential role of sunlight exposure in supporting mental well-being.
  3. Laugh, treat yourself, and all the other stuff. What is it exactly that contributes to your happiness? Remember that you are the expert and that your Holy Grail should be tailored to your unique self. Does blocking off some time in your day to be alone replenish you? Or are you the type that prefers being surrounded by others to fuel up? Perhaps watching a funny video is all you need to boost your mood after a long day at work. Whatever it might be, we encourage you to come up with your Holy Grail for happiness, write it down and keep it handy!


Staying attuned to people around us and effectively helping those in need requires that we be well ourselves. It’s no surprise that people working in helping professions (e.g., healthcare, emergency and community workers) are encouraged to prioritize self-care and practice self-compassion – often mistaken with laziness and self-centredness. Regardless of profession, we all exercise a certain degree of compassion and empathy toward our family, friends, co-workers and co-citizens on a daily basis. The key is to find the right balance between giving ourselves to others and caring for ourselves. If contributing to a suicide-safer community is something that you wish to participate in more actively, the “fill your glass first” principle is a philosophy worth putting thought into!

Small actions you can take to contribute to a suicide-safer community include:

  1. Checking in with people in your entourage. There’s nothing like a genuine and felt “How are you?” and “What have you been up to?”. Of course, asking such questions is a learned behaviour for most of us as it is part of Canadian culture and norms. Given the automaticity of such behaviours, the sincerity and genuineness are sometimes lacking. Showing you care can make others more likely to take off their social masks and being more open with you. Not only does this enable you to be more receptive to others’ needs and behaviour fluctuations, it also fosters strong social connections and contributes to your own well-being!
  2. Increase your toolbox to better intervene with individuals at risk. If someone was telling you they are thinking about killing themselves, would you know what to do? If the idea of it frightens you, there are plenty of resources available to better equip you in the face of such situations. The one-day Suicide Awareness and Mental Fitness workshop offered by Ottawa Health Promotion is designed to promote awareness and skill-building, to maximize mental fitness both individually and in the workplace, and to lessen the incidence of mental health injuries including suicide. Register today!
  3. Know what resources available and keep them on hand. If ever you are confronted with a person at risk of suicide, there are many resources you can connect them with – both internal to the CAF and in the community. Why not add those to your phone contacts right now? 
Family Info Line



CF Member Assistance Program



Check what your local Community Health and Resource Centre has to offer here!


Mental Health Help Line



Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region

613-238-3311 (Ottawa)

1-866-676-1080 (Outaouais)


On a final note, keep in mind that you cannot pour from an empty cup. Let’s work together to prevent suicide through taking good care of ourselves and others!

[1] Infographic developed by Public Health Agency of Canada

[2] World Suicide Prevention Day Toolkit

[3] CANMAT 2016 Clinical Guidelines for the Management of Adults with Major Depressive Disorder

This post is also available in: Français (French)

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