Talking about suicide saves lives
Sgt Isabelle Paré

February 2020 Campaign

If you are in distress or concerned about someone, click here to see resources at your disposal.

Welcome to the NCR’s Suicide Awareness Campaign website! Here you will find information and a variety of resources to help you increase your knowledge and skills in regards to suicide prevention. We invite you to take a moment to navigate through our website and learn about the problematic of suicide, some common warning signs and protective factors, tips to effectively talk about suicide, resources available for people in distress and family members/friends/colleagues, and more!

In line with the Association Québécoise de Prévention du Suicide (AQPS), the campaign slogan is “Talking About Suicide Saves Lives”. Indeed, the slogan speaks to our collective and individual responsibility of opening the dialogue around suicide in order to reduce the stigma and therefore play a role in preventing it. Participate actively in the suicide prevention movement - navigate through this webpage and get easy, practical tips on how to become a better advocate for life promotion!

The 2020 campaign’s four main action areas include:
1. The “You’re Important to Me” clothespins activity! Teams are invited to get a campaign toolkit and pass around the “You’re Important to Me” clothespins as a way to communicate to someone how important they are to you (someone you admire, someone who's having a bad day, someone who is awesome etc). You guessed it! Simply showing a mark of appreciation to people in your entourage is a great way to promote good mental health in the workplace. This initiative has been deployed at other B/Ws over a few years and the response from its members has been very positive. Let’s see how this action can impact lives here in the NCR!
Click here to see the “You’re Important to Me” instruction handout.

2. Registering online for a Mental Fitness and Suicide Awareness briefing or workshop offered by the Ottawa Health Promotion Team. 

3. Read the 4-part “Talking About Suicide Saves Lives” article series and get familiar with other relevant info on our website!   Articles can be found under the ‘Health’ category on The Guard website:

4. To obtain awareness material for your office, click on the links below:
Main poster "Talking about suicide saves lives" (Bilingual)
Instructions leaflet for the activity "You're Important to Me" (Bilingual)
Order "You're important to me" pins


Suicidality is the encompassing term used to describe suicide (to end one’s life intentionally), suicide behaviour (including suicide attempts) and suicide ideation (having thoughts about suicide).[1]

As shown in this infographic from the Public Health Agency of Canada, suicide is the 9th leading cause of mortality in Canada, with the younger population being at higher risk. On average, 4000 Canadians die by suicide every year, which equates to an average of 10 suicide deaths every day. According to recent reports, the suicide rates for the CAF “are broadly in keeping with those of the Canadian population”; however, available information suggests that suicide seems more common among Veterans as compared to the general population. It is no surprise that the Chief of Defence Staff has iterated the importance of ensuring the appropriate care and support to those who are suffering in silence in his recent statement.  
Better understanding the complex problematic of suicide is imperative in order to help prevent it. Increasing collective knowledge about suicide is required to reduce the social and self-stigma that prevails and which represents an important barrier for vulnerable people in accessing the care they need. The CAF’s You’re Not Alone initiative has compiled testimonials from members who have struggled with suicide ideation, health professionals and family members to accurately contextualize the problematic of suicide in the CAF. Click here to watch the 12-minute video!
One of the best ways to wrap our heads around the topic of suicide is to reflect on some deep-rooted beliefs and attitudes and check whether they are actually true!

Test your knowledge with this Myth or Fact quiz!

Click here to uncover the facts and increase your understanding!


Refs: Association Québécoise de prévention du suicide, World Health Organization, LivingWorks, Strengthening the Forces ‘Mental Fitness and Suicide Awareness’ workshop
 “Our evolving understanding of suicide behaviour indi­cates that – although every case is unique – mental illness, acute stress, or chronic cumulative stress can set some indi­viduals on a path to suicide. Suicide behaviour is often the cumulative outcome of multi-dimensional factors such as relationship loss, isolation, trauma, substance abuse, or feelings of burdensomeness that can lead to a suicide act. The critical point to be drawn from this understanding is that suicide is not a pre-determined outcome, and that there are many points of intervention to move an individ­ual away from a suicide path. While it is impossible to prevent every suicide, we can take meaningful actions to reduce risks and build protective factors, support, and resilience among our comrades and loved ones.”
Ref: Joint Suicide Prevention Strategy, 2017 (p. 9)


Being familiar common warning signs of suicide and addressing them are essential skills to be able to help vulnerable people. The vast majority of people contemplating suicide show warning signs, some being more obvious than others. Paying close attention to how people are acting and what people are doing or saying can make the difference between life and death. Below are some common indicators of potential risks for suicide. Please note that these may be indications of other problems such as stress, problems at home, work dissatisfaction, gambling, and that this is in no way an exhaustive list since individuals ask for help in their own individual way.
Refs: Strengthening the Forces ‘Mental Fitness and Suicide Awareness’ workshop, Canadian Mental Health Association ‘Preventing Suicide’ brochure

In the realm of suicide prevention, an ounce of prevention can be worth lives. The 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) Indeed, there are a number of individual and societal protective factors that can help people stay connected to life.
Protective factors will vary between people, that is, what works for one might not work for the other. Nonetheless, the protective factors listed below are generally true for most people. It is crucial to maximize protective factors in order to counter balance the risk factors of suicide. For example, fostering unit cohesion and a buddy care system can be a very valuable protective factor that could motivate people to improve their mental fitness rather than isolating themselves from the others which is a risk factor.
  • Psychological, physical and spiritual resilience
  • Positive social, community and family connections
  • Good mental and physical health
  • Better management of stress, including coping and problem-solving skills
  • Meaningful career opportunities & progression
  • Education/awareness about mental health and suicide (including reducing the stigma associated with seeking care and/or support)
  • Access to and awareness of appropriate health care and social services (including reducing barriers to care)
  • Support through ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
  • Assessment/management/treatment of:
    • suicidal behaviour
    • mental health disorders
    • substance use disorders
    • physical illness 
We invite you to take the time to ask yourself the extent to which the following protective factors are integrated within your life. The list above is not necessarily complete. Can you think of other protective factors that may help strengthen your resilience?
Know that there are a number of resources at your disposal to help you counterbalance some common risk factors and help you achieve a balanced lifestyle tailored to your unique needs!

If you are having thoughts of suicide, you’re probably experiencing a great amount of pain or suffering that seems unbearable to keep up with. Don’t isolate yourself. Staying alone with the problem just adds to the excessive burden that you already carry. Opening up and expressing your thoughts and feelings to a counsellor or someone you trust can be a great source of relief and represents an important step towards accessing the supports you need.
Remember that there are no exact words or ways to say it. Be yourself and express how you feel as truthfully as possible and in your own words. Your family and friends want to keep you close to them despite your struggles, so don’t let the fear of worrying your loved ones become a barrier to getting the help you need.
Click here [insert resources pdf] for more information and know that help is available any time. Have your resources  (including a 24-hour help line) on hand in case a crisis arises.  

If you are concerned about a friend, a colleague, or a loved one:
It is normal to feel powerless and wonder what to do or not do when someone close to us is in distress. It is important to remember that you don’t have to be an expert to help. In fact, the best gatekeepers for suicide prevention are often people in the inner circle of the affected individual – someone they trust. Here are a couple tips retrieved from in regards to addressing the issue with a loved one:
  • Try to build trust and choose a good time to talk about the issue.
    • Spend more time listening to try and understand what they are going through. Avoid preaching to the person by giving them ideas or solutions for happiness (you don’t have to “fix it”, they just need to be heard).
  • Be yourself and know that you don’t have to be a suicide prevention expert to address the subject.
    • People with thoughts of suicide who decide to talk about it often do so to people they trust, not because they think they are experts in the matter. You don’t have to be an expert to be supportive.
  • Listen openly and without judgement. Believe the person and tell them you care about them.
  • If you have some reasons to believe that the person is having thoughts of suicide, ask the person directly: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”
    • By asking directly, you are not suggesting the idea of suicide as an option, you are rather giving the person the chance to express their intentions openly. If the person is having thoughts of suicide, they may feel some relief by talking about it. See the ACE Model below for a step-by-step approach from asking the question directly to escorting the person towards the appropriate resources.
  • Tell the person that they were right to trust you, that they can count on you, and that you will support them in finding an available resource that can help.
  • Be cautious of any sudden sense of well-being when nothing has changed. It could be a red flag of a suicide act. If in doubt, speak about it openly.
The way we speak can affect the way other people think and speak. Choosing our words carefully in our day-to-day conversations is important to reduce the social stigma around mental health and suicide.  It also helps people come forward and get the help they need. Be mindful and use accurate and sensitive words when talking about people with mental health problems and suicide. For example:
  • Speak about “a person with thoughts of suicide” rather than “a suicidal person”
    • Labeling people or their thoughts as “suicidal” can have the effect of secluding them rather than making them comfortable to be open about their struggles.
  • Prefer the phrase “died by suicide” and avoid using the terms “committed suicide”
    • Similarly, the word “committed” holds a negative connotation as it is associated with crime. Therefore, talking about someone who “committed suicide” adds to the stigma around suicide and mental health. 
Whether you have thoughts of suicide yourself, are concerned about someone you know, are working in a helping profession, the website shares helpful information and tips to increase your suicide prevention toolbox.

Ref: Mental Fitness and Suicide Awareness workshop, Strengthening the Forces
The ACE model described below is designed to empower you to be part of the solution.  It encourages you to question directly and honestly anyone who exhibits signs of distress that may indicate thoughts of suicide. To learn more, contact your Health Promotion Team and register to a Mental Fitness and Suicide Awareness workshop.

ACE is for ASK, CARE, and ESCORT
  1. ASK: If you are worried that someone you know might be showing signs of suicide risk (refer to the section on warning signs above), it is best to ask the person directly if they are thinking about killing themselves. It is important to be direct rather than vague, as it makes it easier for the affected individual to be honest about the way they feel. Asking the question is often one of or the hardest part of helping, but know that it is the right thing to do. If a person answers yes, remember to stay calm. You want to keep the conversation going so be mindful of your reaction.
  2. CARE: Listening to someone in crisis helps ease their pain. The best thing you can do is to listen actively to their story (why they’re feeling this way) in a non-judgemental way. Tell them you care about them and that they did the right thing of opening up to you.
  3. ESCORT: Escort the person to someone who can help. Encourage them to seek a helping professional now and identify together support systems that can help them. Stay with them until they receive appropriate help to ensure their safety.  

CAF resources
You’re Not Alone
Family Info Line 1-800-866-4546
CF Member Assistance Program 1-800-268-7708
CF Mental Health Services (NCR) 613-945-1111

DND civilian resources
Employee Assistance Program (Public) 1-800-268-7708
Employee Assistance Program (NPF) 1-800-361-5676

NCR Community Resources
Mental Health Crisis Line 1-866-996-0991
1-866-APPELLE (Québec) 1-866-277-3553