Coalition name: Ottawa Suicide Prevention Coalition
Primary contact: Renée Ouimet
Communities included within your coalition: Ottawa area
Number of agencies involved in your coalition: 15
Sectors involved in the coalition: Mental health, public health, community health and resource centres, youth justice, and police.
Website address: www.ottawasuicideprevention.com
How did your coalition start?
The Coalition was born out of a request from the Ottawa–Carleton Health Committee. They asked the Ottawa-Carleton Health Department, now Ottawa Public Health, to prepare a report on suicides in the region in 1988. The Health Department responded by organizing community consultation meetings with over 100 individuals from different organizations to see what was being done in the area of suicide prevention, intervention and postvention, and to measure the support for a coordinated effort in the region.
In September 1989, a coordinator was hired by the Ottawa-Carleton Health Department to develop a regional suicide prevention program. The first meeting of the Regional Interagency Suicide Program Committee was held in January 1990 with 24 key agency representatives. In 1999, the terms of reference for the Committee were revised and the Ottawa branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) took over as the coordinator of the coalition. At this point the name was changed from Regional Interagency Suicide Program Committee to the Ottawa Suicide Prevention Coalition.
What are the goals/objectives of your coalition?
The Ottawa Suicide Prevention Coalition works in partnership with the community of Ottawa to develop and support comprehensive strategies to prevent suicide.
- to plan and coordinate activities to prevent suicide.
- to establish priorities for suicide prevention activities each year
- to continue to develop the multi-component community model as new priorities emerge
- to evaluate the progress of activities on a yearly basis
- to provide a forum for sharing concerns and gathering information regarding suicide
- to recognize and endorse the contributions of community partners, both organizations and individuals to the prevention of suicide
- to facilitate the development of strategies to meet needs for suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention
- to identify gaps and best practices in the areas of prevention, intervention and postvention
- to identify stakeholders who are impacted by identified gaps
- to create ad hoc working groups of stakeholders to respond to issues
- to advocate on suicide issues as appropriate
- to inform and educate the public about suicide and its prevention
- to promote the sharing of suicide prevention resources among stakeholders
- to facilitate the development of strategies for using media for advocacy and raising public awareness of suicide and its prevention
What key activities has your coalition been involved in?
The coalition focuses on and supports all aspects of suicide prevention, including prevention, intervention and postvention.
- Over the last two decades, the Coalition has helped coordinate the master training of staff from various organizations in suicide prevention training (e.g. safeTALK or Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). These staff can then deliver the suicide prevention training within their own organization. Organizations with master trainers now include all four local school boards, local hospitals, community health and resource centres and Ottawa Public Health.
- In the past three years the Coalition applied for and received funding to deliver free safeTALK and ASIST workshops to youth, vulnerable groups and parents. To date, the Coalition has reached over 480 Ottawa residents with these free trainings.
- The Coalition is committed to developing education and awareness resources. For example, the Coalition worked with provincial and national partners to develop a best practice guide for media on how to report on suicide in a safe way. With the support of the Community Suicide Prevention Network, this resource was launched at Ottawa’s first Suicide Prevention Symposium. The Coalition also held two separate very successful discussions at Ottawa City Hall with over 20 journalists from all major media outlets on how to report on suicide in a safe way.
- The Coalition recently developed suicide prevention information cards which have been distributed to thousands of individuals in social services, mental health, health and education services.
- The Coalition works to raise awareness of the local crisis lines and crisis support organizations.
- The Coalition works to increase the number of staff trained in suicide intervention within organizations that have direct contact with clients. Over 1,000 people are trained in ASIST though a partnership with Canadian Mental Health Association’s Ottawa branch.
- The Coalition, with the support of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Ottawa branch, developed a post suicide debriefing team, which is a mobile team that supports friends, coworkers and colleagues after a suicide has occurred. This team is trained, coordinated and supported by the Ottawa branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Coalition.
What success factors can you identify that are helping your coalition to achieve your desired outcomes?
A key factor to the Coalitions success: Working together as a community and having multiple organizations come together to give their time and energy to prevent suicide
Has your coalition faced any significant challenges?
The Coalition is very fortunate and grateful to receive funding from the City of Ottawa, but funding is a constant challenge for the Coalition. The Coalition is continuously applying for grants and looking for creative ways to raise funds in order to deliver suicide prevention trainings and to develop resources.
Do you have any tips for other communities mobilizing around youth suicide prevention, risk management and postvention?
Two critical first steps are:
- conducting a needs assessment within your community to identify the needs and gaps
- conducting a situational assessment to determine which agencies/organizations/individuals are already conducting this type of work
Once this is done, bring together as many agencies/organizations/individuals as possible to analyze the needs and gaps, and to develop a shared vision moving forward.