Most comprehensive youth suicide prevention efforts involve training gatekeepers − a diverse group of community members who have regular non-clinical contact with youth, including faith/cultural leaders, elders, teachers, school administrators, counsellors, youth workers, police officers, coaches, probation officers, foster parents, volunteers and others. Given their close proximity to youth, these adults are in a unique position to detect signs of depression and suicidal behaviour in young people.1

Gatekeepers are trained to recognize risk factors, identify high-risk youth and refer them to appropriate services. Gatekeeper training is an important youth suicide prevention strategy because individuals who are suicidal often don’t seek help of their own accord, making it important for others to seek help on their behalf.2

Although positive outcomes have been found in existing research.3;4, more research is needed on the effectiveness of gatekeeper training.   

Examples of gatekeeper trainings

The gatekeeper training programs listed below are options for your community to consider, but this is not an exhaustive list. There may be other training programs better suited to your needs.

  • LivingWorks is an organization that helps communities become suicide-safer through the delivery of training programs meant to prepare community members to intervene and prevent suicide. These programs reach across all cultures and local adaptions exist to meet the needs of different audiences. Programs offered by LivingWorks include: Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), safeTALK and esuicideTALK.
  • Mental Health First Aid was developed in Australia and adapted for use in Canada. This training program explores:
    • signs and symptoms of common mental health problems and crisis situations 
    • information about effective interventions and treatments, and 
    • ways to access professional help. 

This program is offered under the leadership of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

  • QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Gatekeeper Training prepares individuals to respond to someone in crisis.5 This training has been shown to increase the knowledge and confidence of gatekeepers.2 QPR training is available through the QPR Institute in the United States, though it has also been offered in Ontario. It’s also offered as an online training program.
  • 1. White, 2013
  • 2. a. b. Reis, & Cornell, 2008
  • 3. Isaac, Elias, Katz, Belik, Deane, & Enns, 2009
  • 4. Cross et al., 2011
  • 5. QPR Institute, 2011