Preventing suicide with creativity and collaboration


Story Highlights 

  • Suicide Prevention Ottawa’s (SPO) Youth Nominated Support Teams help youth transition home when leaving the hospital after experiencing a mental health crisis.  

  • A peer-led suicide prevention initiative is being spearheaded by Yolaine Roberge, a peer support worker who hopes to share her lived-experience to help others. 

  • By collaborating with partners like SPO, United Way can ensure more people in our communities have access to the local mental health and crisis supports they need, when they need it. 

Mental health service providers in Ottawa are finding new ways to support people at risk of suicide in our communities as demand for mental health services continues to rise. 

Just this past year we know that one in six young people (Grades 7-12), in Ottawa, considered attempting suicide. That number jumps to one in four when looking at youth living in low socioeconomic circumstances. 

The number of folks in the city, especially young people, reporting poor mental health and emotional well-being over the last year is higher than it’s ever been. 

That’s why we understand the importance of collaborating with initiatives like Suicide Prevention Ottawa—a collective effort involving a number of organizations, leaders and experts in Ottawa, including Ottawa Public Health (OPH), Pleo, and Youth Services Bureau (YSB). 

“Suicide Prevention Ottawa pursues a number of ways to prevent suicide in Ottawa, through research, through programs, through advocacy, through just looking at what our collective impact can be.”

Elyse Schipper, Executive Director, Pleo

Minimizing risk with Youth Nominated Support Teams

A young person who has been admitted to hospital or is experiencing a mental health crisis is most at risk when they’re sent home from hospital. 

Through SPO’s Youth Nominated Support Teams program, a member of Pleo meets with the youth who is getting set to return home from hospital and helps them identify four adult allies already in their life, who they would like to have more involved as support people. Pleo then trains those allies to be the best supporters they can be. 

Elyse says the program is really approachable and accessible for the youth and they get control over who their support people are, so it’s empowering for them too. 

“And the supporters feel honoured to have been nominated by the youth. They show up every single week to learn more, to be there for the youth, to check in with us to say, ‘How can I do better?’” 

“So many of their interactions at that point are really clinical – emergency services – and this is such a soft touch opportunity to say, ‘We just want to wrap around you. These people who already know and care about you want to help you. Can we help them help you better?’”


Creating community-wide support

The adults who are nominated in this program not only become great supporters and help youth transition home, but their new knowledge and skill set becomes a benefit to their entire community. 

Youth Nominated Support Teams essentially equip more community members with what’s needed to recognize suicide risk and provide support, if necessary.  

“Some adult allies are already in positions of support within the community, as teachers or principals, and the feedback we’ve got from them is the training has made them better at their jobs.”


The Pleo executive director explains that generally, people in the lives of those suffering suicide risk want to help—they just might feel intimidated or hesitant, they don’t want to say the wrong thing or interfere in the wrong way. 

Programs like Youth Nominated Support Teams help remove those barriers. 

“Their heart is there. The intention is there. The connection is there. They know what to do, but to have the training to help them have confidence, and some of the skills too, to know that if things escalate, they know what steps to take, who to contact, what to watch for,” adds Elyse.  

Suicide Prevention Ottawa exploring many avenues

Yolaine Roberge is a peer support worker in Ottawa and is working to bring the Skills for Safer Living program to Ottawa. 

It is suicide prevention intervention that is specifically targeted to individuals who experience suicidal thoughts, who have attempted in the past, or who are at risk of attempting again. 

Roberge says this program engages a mental health worker and a peer who work together to lead peer support groups. 

“The fact that people have been there – we have an understanding that others may not. That results in a feeling where you no longer feel alone, you no longer feel isolated.”  

“As a peer-support worker, I can provide that hope that it is possible to live with mental health issues, to live with suicidal ideation.”


Doing our part to ensure people in crisis get the support they need

“For us at Pleo, United Way has always come in right at the beginning, when we most needed them to ...”


“…They’ve seen when there is a project with potential that they know we can deliver on, that they know is going to make a big community impact, and they’ve really been leaders to make that happen.”  

United Way is proud to partner with local, front-line agencies to deliver vital programs and services that help improve lives, break down barriers, and create opportunities for our region’s most vulnerable people. In addition to 24/7 crisis lines that offer immediate emotional support and coping strategies, we also support accessible, affordable counselling and peer support groups.  

Through 2021-2022, thanks to our donors, we helped more than 26,000 people across our region get the crisis supports they needed. 

We know that chronic mental health issues across East Ontario have only worsened since the beginning of the pandemic, especially among young people and seniors living in isolation.  

Together, we can ensure more people in our communities have access to the local mental health and crisis supports they need, when they need it. 

Help prevent suicide in your community. 




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