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Public Health and Suicide Fact Sheet

Suicide in Canada is an ongoing public health crisis. While it continues to be a high-ranking cause of death (which the COVID-19 pandemic may worsen), mental health and public health initiatives can help prevent it.

What is public health?
Public health is concerned with protecting and improving people’s health at the population level. Examples include the detection, prevention, and control of infectious disease as well as health promotion, health protection, and research into preventing disease and injuries (Rutty & Sullivan, 2010; CDC Foundation, 2021).

Suicide as a public health emergency
Suicide is a continuing societal crisis. Its prevention requires both mental health and public health approaches. Mental health approaches are specifically aimed toward individuals, whereas public health approaches concern an entire population and are most evident through the action of large organizations (e.g. governments, media outlets) (Cramer et al., 2017; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d.).

Public health initiatives can effectively prevent suicide if they are multi-faceted; for example, initiatives that affect society, smaller communities, as well as individual people and their relationships. Initiatives that boost people’s resilience and protect them from thoughts of suicide may involve direct support (e.g. crisis lines, the construction of bridge barriers) and indirect support (e.g. housing programs) (Gunnell et al., 2020)

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