Better suicide prevention

Every day, all over the world, thousands of people call suicide prevention centres in a state of suicidal despair. The conversation that follows is key to preventing them from acting on their feelings. Yet, very little research has been done into what should be said or done in order to help these suicidal callers and prevent them from going beyond the point of no return. The Centre de recherche et d'intervention sur le suicide et l'euthanasie (Centre for Research and Intervention on Suicide and Euthanasia), directed by Brian Mishara from Université du Québec à Montréal and including researchers in psychology, in nursing sciences, in family medicine and in oncology, carried out research in collaboration with four suicide prevention centres in Quebec and with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the USA. This research led to the observation that helpline counsellors generally apply one of two types of intervention strategies: active listening or a directive approach based on problem resolution. South of the border, few counsellors had the reflex of asking the caller whether he or she had the intention of actually committing suicide, which complicated the evaluation of suicide risk.

The research centre's work showed that a collaborative problem resolution approach was much more effective. This result led the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, with its network of 230 American crisis centres connected to 1-800-SUICIDE, to upgrade its suicide risk evaluation training. In Quebec, these studies led to improvements in the approach of suicide prevention centres, while ensuring that the direct questions that are asked about the intention to commit suicide and the resulting risk evaluation meet the relevant criteria. Collaboration with the Quebec Association for Suicide Prevention also contributed to the modification of certain accredited training courses.

This new knowledge has been disseminated and integrated into the working practices of suicide counsellors, in particular through numerous knowledge application projects involving more than 40 partners working in suicide prevention under the direction of researcher François Chagnon from Université du Québec à Montréal.


Centre de recherche et d'intervention sur le suicide et l'euthanasie


Brian Mishara, Université du Québec à Montréal

Regular members

  • François Chagnon, Université du Québec à Montréal
  • Marc Daigle, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
  • Francine Gratton, Université de Montréal
  • Brian Greenfield, Université McGill
  • Melissa Henry, Université McGill
  • Janie Houle, Université du Québec à Montréal
  • Marie Julien, RRSSS de la Montérégie
  • Réal Labelle, Université du Québec à Montréal
  • Jocelyne F. St-Arnaud, Université de Montréal
  • Danielle St-Laurent, Institut national santé publique
  • Michel Tousignant, Université du Québec à Montréal
  • David Weisstub, Université de Montréal