Suicide Prevention Starts with a Question. Are You Ready to Ask It?

Asking someone and talking about suicide can feel scary. Breaking the silence however sends a powerful message to someone that it is okay to talk about what they are feeling and thinking, that they are not alone, and that you care. When someone is feeling suicidal, it is often less about wanting to die, and more about feeling that they have run out of options and hope.  The fear and shame surrounding these feeling keeps people isolated and cut off from accessing help, which allows their fear, hopelessness, and embarrassment to grow bigger and bigger. Asking about and giving people permission to talk about suicide is the first step towards hope and helps reduce the risk.

Asking someone about suicide doesn’t put the idea in their head, it gives them the chance to let their fear out and talk about other options. Breaking the silence surrounding suicide increases realistic opportunities to save lives and to reduce suffering.

Know What to do to Prevent Suicide


TELL – If you are having thoughts of suicide Tell someone exactly what you are saying to yourself, as directly and clearly as possible.  Don’t stop at one person, find several people who take you seriously and are willing to help.

ASK – Once you have a suspicion or a ‘gut feeling’ that someone might be thinking about suicide, ASK them “are you thinking about suicide?”, as directly, clearly and as soon as possible.

Encourage the person to talk by being a good listener. Their talking to someone who is really listening can be helpful, all by itself.

Now is the time to do something that keeps them safe. Do not promise secrecy. Remove means that might be used to complete a suicide act.


Where to find Help

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call now if you need someone to talk to, 1-800-273-8255.

Kids Help Phone is a free, anonymous and confidential phone and on-line counselling service for youth. Big or small concerns. 24/7. 365 days a year. 1-800-668-6868.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention works towards reducing suicide and its impact in Canada, through advocacy, support and education.

The American Association of Suicidology works to understand and prevent suicide through research, training, and promotion.

Living Works offers training in Applies Suicide Intervention Skills Training, as well as other suicide awareness and prevention training programs.

Suicide Prevention Resource Centre provides prevention support, training, and resources to assist organizations and individuals to develop suicide prevention programs, interventions and policies.

Working Minds provides tools and networks to organizations to help them with suicide prevention, intervention and post-vention.

In Canada, suicide is a major public health issue.  In fact, more than 3,500 people die by suicide in Canada every year, each death touching friends, family, coworkers, teachers and entire communities.  At the same time, suicide or thoughts of suicide are often connected with stigma and feelings of shame, which can further isolate people when they need the support of others the most. Suicides are preventable, and your organization can play an important role in helping to keep people safe, alive and reconnect with hope.

Suicide affects us all, and we all have a responsibility to work towards a suicide safer society.  Suicide prevention is everyone’s business. As a member of your community, your organization is in a unique position to play a critical role in preventing suicides and connecting people to resources and supports when they need it.  This pamphlet contains some simple but important ideas that can help you make your organization and community suicide safer.

Suicide is most often the result of pain, hopelessness and despair.  It is almost always preventable through caring, compassion, commitment and community.

How suicide safe is your organization? Please consider the following questions carefully.

  •  Do you offer a confidential employee assistance program?
  •  Is the employee assistance program promoted and accessible?
  •  Are cards and posters for local helpline and crisis services available to staff and clients?  Are they prominently displayed in public areas?
  •  Do your organizational policies reflect suicide safety?  Do these policies encourage help seeking behaviors, and clearly communicate that talking helps? Is there a suicide prevention protocol in place?
  •  Does your webpage have a link to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, or other local/regional suicide prevention services?
  •  Do you include or consider the needs of survivors bereaved by suicide, caregivers of people struggling with suicidal thoughts and behaviours and those with lived experience in your program planning?
  •  Do you have information readily available on suicide bereavement and local suicide bereavement support groups?
  •  Do your workplace values reflect a genuine concern for the wellness of employees, promoting physical, mental and spiritual health?
  •  Do you have a workplace mental health program or strategy?
  •  Does your workplace offer mental health related benefits?  Are they covered at the same rate as physical health benefits?
  •  Do staff members know when to ask about suicide?
  •  Do staff know how to ask someone about suicide?
  •  Is there universal screening for suicide in your organization?
  •  Is each client/patient assessed for suicide risk at regular intervals or when there is  change in their situation?
  •  Is each client/patient assessed for both protective and risk factors?
  •  Do staff feel confident in their skills to have a conversation about suicide?
  •  Do staff receive training in suicide intervention, prevention and postvention?
  •  Does your organization have mechanisms and supports in place that address immediate safety needs?
  •  Do you identify treatment and monitoring strategies to ensure client/patient safety?
  •  Do you follow up within 24 hours of discharge or the transition of care of people deemed to be at risk for suicide?
  •  Do you develop and document individual care plans for people deemed to be at risk for suicide?
  •  Do staff understand the difference between mental illness and mental health?
  •  Does your organization educate staff and clients about mental illness?
  •  Does your organization assess mental health issues routinely?
  •  Does your organization deliver services that are trauma informed?
  •  Does your organization routinely assess for trauma?
  •  Does your organization assess clients for drug and alcohol use?
  •  Do your staff have access to ongoing educational opportunities related to mental health and wellness?
  •  Does your organization work towards eliminating stigma related to mental illness such as participating in anti-stigma campaigns?
  •  Does your organization promote work-life balance to increase mental and emotional resiliency?