Suicide Prevention Standards Being Developed for Ontario Hospitals


New suicide prevention standards for hospitals are being created to help improve care for Ontarians dealing with a mental illness crisis.

“By strengthening Ontario’s mental health standards and training, our government is increasing patient access to high quality care. We’re committed to working closely with our world class health care providers to apply best practices for patient-centred care across the province.” — Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

The province has asked the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) to develop the new standards for hospitals across Ontario. A new OHA task force chaired by Dr. Ian Dawe, a leading expert on mental health, will focus on establishing safe medical practices for at-risk patients by looking at best practices and working with patients and those with lived-experience.

“Suicide represents a worst case failure in mental health. We must work to make it a ‘never event’ within our hospitals and programs. It is critically important to design for zero; it is about purposefully aiming for the highest level of system performance. I am excited to work with a diverse group of experts in suicide and suicide prevention from across Ontario. Importantly, these experts include people with lived experience who will help us meaningfully co-create these standards.” — Dr. Ian Dawe, Physician-in-chief, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences; Chair, OHA Task Force on Suicide Prevention Standards

Ontario is also providing more education for health care providers to treat patients with mental illness. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the University of Toronto are launching an ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) mental health project that will use videoconferencing sessions to develop mental health expertise among health care providers. The project will foster a virtual community of practice that will be especially beneficial for northern, rural, Aboriginal and other underserviced communities.

“The ECHO initiative is a great way to enhance care for the up to 70 per cent of those with mental illness that may only ever be treated by their primary care provider. This type of training and education can shorten the time to start effective treatment. I look forward to having northern teaching sites in the future that build on this project.” — Dr. Jack Haggarty, Medical Director of Community Mental Health Programs, St. Joseph’s Thunder Bay and Professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine

Improving services and care for people with mental health and addiction challenges is part of the government’s plan to build a better Ontario through its Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care, which is providing patients with faster access to the right care, better home and community care, the information they need to stay healthy and a health care system that’s sustainable for generations to come.


  • The OHA task force will examine current hospital policies and protocols for suicide prevention and assessment, and establish standards by 2016.
  • Ontario is investing $1.5 million over three years to support the ECHO mental health education program, which will begin in September 2015.
  • Approximately 30 per cent of Ontarians will experience a mental health and/or substance abuse challenge at some point in their lifetime, with one out of 40 Ontarians experiencing a serious mental illness.
  • This year, Mental Health Week runs from May 4 -10.