What is the system gap?

World Health Organization statistics show Canada's suicide rate is 15 per 100,000 people. In the Ottawa area alone, as many as 100 people die from suicide each year.

There are many risk factors for suicide - often a combination of individual, relationship, community, and societal factors that can include alcohol and substance use, barriers to accessing mental health treatment, unwillingness to seek help due to the stigma, and local 'suicide contagion' - the idea that someone else’s suicide (within one's family, one's peer group, or through media reports of suicide) can increase your risk of suicide — “especially among younger adolescents” (Coleman, I. et al 2013).

Every suicide is a tragedy and many people in the community are emotionally impacted in some way. New research suggests that every suicide directly affects 65-115 people (Cerel, J. et al 2016). Those impacted can be:

  • family, friends and neighbours;
  • co-workers/classmates;
  • sports club teammates;
  • staff members/clients of a helping agency;
  • and many others.

For those impacted by suicide, talking about one’s feelings is an important part of the grieving process. Ottawa’s Post Suicide Support Team (PSST) offers free and mobile support that gives people the chance to talk about their thoughts, feelings and experiences. However, this important community support is seriously underutilized.

What are we doing about it?

Suicide postvention (supports made available after a suicide occurs to ease its impact on survivors of loss by suicide) has many proven benefits, including assisting survivors of suicide loss to get through the grieving process and preventing future suicide.

The Post Suicide Support Team (PSST) was created in Ottawa as part of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s initiative to provide local support to anyone who needs it following a suicide in the community. The PSST consists of volunteer professionals from the health, mental health, and social service sectors. PSST offers free, mobile support for those who are not family members and who may not be served by existing programs.

The Ottawa Suicide Prevention Coalition* and the Provincial System Support Program (PSSP) at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have partnered to ensure that the Post Suicide Support Team is:

  • properly supported to quickly and safely respond to the needs of the community;
  • aligned with evidence-informed best practices;
  • more visible and accessed by the community through consistent communication strategies and engagement tools (a PSST video, community PowerPoint presentation, program brochure); and
  • evaluated on an on-going basis through regular participant evaluation review.

*The Ottawa Suicide Prevention Coalition, which is made up of a network of organizations and individuals dedicated to eliminating suicide, acts as an oversight committee to the PSST.

?What's this?

Initial Implementation

The Ottawa Suicide Prevention Coalition, with help from the Provincial System Support Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, updated training and promotional resources, and developed sustainable evaluation and communications strategies to support the work of the Post Suicide Support Team.

I’m more proud and able to stand by [the PSST] now that we’ve thought through everything and then some. I am confident that this can help people and it’s the right thing to do.

— Member, Ottawa Suicide Prevention Coalition

This work could influence agency policies and we will be looking for opportunities to disseminate this across the province

— Member, Ottawa Suicide Prevention Coalition

Who is involved?

The Ottawa Suicide Prevention Coalition has brought together partners from diverse sectors, including community, public health, police, mental health and addictions, crisis supports, and primary care, along with community members.

  • Bereaved Families of Ontario – Ottawa Region
  • Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ottawa branch
  • Community Suicide Prevention Network
  • Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region
  • Geriatric Psychiatry Community Services of Ottawa
  • Mobile Crisis Team, The Ottawa Hospital
  • Ottawa Community Support Coalition
  • Ottawa Police Service
  • Ottawa Public Health
  • Private Psychologist
  • Salvation Army Ottawa Booth Centre
  • South East Ottawa Community Health Centre
  • Western Ottawa Community Resource Centre
  • Youth Net/Réseau Ado
  • Youth Services Bureau
  • Community members

Next Steps

CMHA Ottawa has recruited and trained many new Post Suicide Support Team members. The Coalition is supporting a communications strategy to disseminate new PSST promotional products and engaging the community to enhance access to the program. Last year, the Post Suicide Support Team saw a significant increase in community requests for their service as compared to 2016.

For more information, please contact:

Renée Ouimet, Coordinator, Ottawa Suicide Prevention Coalition

Canadian Mental Health Association, Ottawa Branch
613-737-7791 ext.124