Addressing Suicide in Occupational Therapy Practice - Practice Network

This Practice Network has been meeting every two months since the inaugural meeting at the CAOT Conference in Banff, AB in April 2016.
During the 2014 CAOT Conference a Professional Issue Forum (PIF) was held to present information about, and to discuss the role and responsibility that occupational therapy should play in suicide prevention. A call-to-action was voiced by many delegates requesting support from CAOT for further advancement in this area.  To begin to address this call-to-action, self-identified occupational therapists at the 2014 PIF stepped forward to begin a working group. With the aim to have representation across geography, education, and culture, key occupational therapist experts working in suicide prevention or related fields (i.e. clinicians and faculty from various OT Programs) were invited to join the working group. Since then the working group has transitioned to become an official CAOT Practice Network, and has been meeting to have discussions to better understand the issue and the topic, as well as to identify and work towards target action items.


To promote, develop, and support the role of occupational therapy and occupational therapists in the area of suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention by providing opportunities for leadership, networking, and building capacity. 

  • To advocate for the role occupational therapy and occupational therapists in the area of suicide prevention at a national level, and to support advocacy at institutional- and individual-levels
  • To advocate for the advancement of methods for increasing occupational therapists’ knowledge, confidence, and skills managing suicide in practice
  • To build a repertoire of resources that are relevant to occupational therapy and suicide prevention/intervention/postvention
  • To promote evidence-based practice by sharing resources that will increase confidence and advance skills to address suicide in practice
  • To develop, or support the development, of new evidence and resources that will further advance occupational therapists’ skills and knowledge
  • To provide a platform for networking and to promote knowledge exchange for Canadian occupational therapists



Meeting Minutes


Network Documents

Publications & Resources

  • PIF Report: Suicide Prevention and the Role of Occupational Therapy

  • McNamara, M., & Straathof, T. (2017) Coping Strategies to Promote Occupational Engagement and Recovery (hyperlink to the CAOT purchase page:
    • This is a manual that Occupational Therapists can use to promote occupational engagement. Modules from this resource can be particularly helpful to assist clients with managing during times of crisis include: Assertive communication to express needs or set limits; The thought/feeling/occupation connection; Transforming loneliness to solitude; Building healthy routines, Recognizing stress symptoms; Four categories of coping. Click on the link above for more information or to purchase the book.

Gatekeeper Training

  • A majority of occupational therapists report that they lack the skills and knowledge to effectively address suicide in clinical practice.  Gatekeeper training programs aim to teach gatekeepers (i.e., individuals who interact with populations at risk for suicide) to better manage suicide risk. The documents below stem from a project by Patel and Degagne (2017) aimed to catalogue available programs and their associated evidence for Canadian clinicians. The resulting resources include; a report reviewing the existing literature on gatekeeper training programs, a clinical-decision making tool supporting clinicians' need to determine which training program is appropriate for them based upon their unique practice context, and an inventory cataloging the evidence for each program.

Finding Resources in your Region

The following tool provides quick access to resources that will help OTs and OTAs support clients by connecting them with local suicide prevention services. The document provided showcases suicide prevention and crisis support resources organized by province/territory, as well as general community resources.

This is a living document and will be updated periodically to reflect evolving suicide prevention resources across the country. If you have a resource to include in this document please contact our Network Secretary at

NOTE: CAOT and this Practice Network has not thoroughly vetted and does not endorse specific resources. 

Resources by Region
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