Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


Worldwide, over 800,000 people die each year by suicide, leaving many behind to grieve the loss. Preventing suicide involves reaching people before they are in crisis (prevention), helping them to navigate a crisis that could result in suicide (intervention), and addressing the aftermath of a suicide loss or attempt (postvention). Healthcare professionals, including occupational therapists, unitedly acknowledge the lack of skills, knowledge, and competence in all facets of suicide awareness and prevention in their professional training and in practice. To improve this situation, suicide prevention skills must be taught in entry to practice programs, so they will filter into the practice of all occupational therapists. Thus, the purpose of this study was to discover how competencies related to suicide prevention are currently taught to student occupational therapists in Canadian universities. A cross-sectional descriptive design was used to survey the 14 Canadian university occupational therapy programs. 12/14 programs responded. All endorsed the use of a range of pedagogical approaches, but there was little similarity from one university to another. Learning activities mainly related to mitigating imminent suicide risk (intervention) and illustrated a lack of attention to the continuum of suicidal behavior (prevention, intervention, and postvention). All universities showed a clear willingness to improve their approach, but there is no current gold standard to strive for. Future initiatives can support research in this regard to ensure student occupational therapists are better prepared to address the full continuum of prevention, intervention, and postvention with explicit attention to an occupational perspective.


Nadine Larivière, erg., PhD is Full Professor at l’Université de Sherbrooke (Québec). She was the director of the Occupational Therapy Program from 2013 to 2020 and is responsible for the theme of mental health in the entry to practice curriculum. Her current research interests include the occupational challenges of people living with borderline personality disorder as well as program evaluation of practices in psychosocial rehabilitation.

Marc Rouleau, erg., International MBA is curriculum advisor for the Université de Montréal’s various Occupational Therapy Programs and is also responsible for the Continuing Professional Development Program. He is president of CAOT-Qc advisory committee and is a member of the CAOT Practice Network – Addressing Suicide in Occupational Therapy Practice.

Kim Hewitt-McVicker, OT Reg. (Ont.) is an occupational therapist based out of CMHA Waterloo Wellington, ON. She is invested in participating in roles that support suicide prevention including; lead author of CAOT Role Paper – Suicide Prevention in Occupational Therapy, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training and Chair of the CAOT Practice Network – Addressing Suicide in Occupational Therapy Practice.

Lorie Sheppard Shimmell, MScRS, BHScOT is Associate Professor, Retired, and was Director of Clinical Education for the McMaster University Occupational Therapy Program from 2008-2019. Lorie participates in research related to suicide prevention, accessible education, and community access to rehabilitation services for those who are marginalized in the inner city of Hamilton.

Catherine White, PhD, OT reg NB is a Prevention Coordinator with Addiction and Mental Health Services, Horizon Health Network in New Brunswick. Her recent research focuses on supporting social inclusion and community participation for individuals with a mental illness.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.