Focus Updates

Mental Health Week: Real conversations about mental health and suicide prevention

Next week is Mental Health Week – May 3 to 9. It’s the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA’s) annual campaign to raise mental health awareness. This year’s campaign is asking Canadians to “#GetReal about how you feel.” 

It’s an important message. Difficult feelings can lighten when you put them into words. So, CMHA is encouraging people to understand and name how they feel, then talk to others about it. These simple, honest conversations are one way to keep mental health struggles in check.

To support this campaign, we’re engaging in an honest conversation about a difficult mental health topic: suicide. We’re encouraging those experiencing thoughts of suicide to talk to others and seek help. We’re reaching out to you and your employees with resources to help those who are struggling.

Why the focus on suicide prevention?

On average, more than 10 Canadians die by suicide each day. For every person lost to suicide, many more experience thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts. With every death by suicide, anywhere from seven to 10 survivors are significantly affected by the loss.

The pandemic has brought mental health problems – and the issue of suicide – to the forefront. The CMHA partnered with researchers from the University of British Columbia in May 20201. They found that more than 1 in 20 Canadians (6%) had experienced thoughts or feelings of suicide as a result of the pandemic. That was up from 2.5% who reported suicidal thoughts in the previous year.

Resources for suicide prevention

We recognize this is a difficult topic for employers to navigate. This is especially true for smaller organizations with limited HR resources. In addition, the lack of anonymity in smaller workplaces can increase the stigma associated with having mental health problems. That’s why we’re supporting you with resources that can help address suicide prevention in your workplace.

There are several prevention resources that can help you and your employees recognize the signs of someone in distress.

  • We offer free resources on suicide awareness and prevention in our mental health strategy toolkit. You can access the resources that relate to suicide prevention here.
  • There are also some excellent free resources available through the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Government of Canada.

Partnering with the CMHA and Centre for Suicide Prevention

In addition, Sun Life is partnering with and championing Buddy Up. This is a CMHA program through its Centre for Suicide Prevention. Buddy Up specifically focuses on providing support to men.

This is an important resource, as Canadian men have a suicide rate three times higher than women2. The higher rate can be attributed, in part, to the tendency of men not to talk about their emotions. This can lead to dealing with emotional pain through harmful behaviours and actions, including suicide, instead of seeking help.

Buddy Up has a toolkit that addresses men and suicide. They also offer a free online, skills-based suicide prevention training program – START. The training takes less than two hours and can help people recognize when someone has thoughts of suicide. They can then take action to connect the person to an intervention provider.

Share information with your employees

As an employer, you have a significant role to play in supporting the mental health of Canadians. You have the greatest influence on culture, processes, supports and other factors that influence mental health in your workplace.

We want your employees to know there is help available for those having suicidal thoughts. We encourage you to share this communication with them.

Our Mental Health Week outreach supports one of the most challenging mental health topics: suicide prevention. We hope that you take up the challenge and share our resource information. We encourage everyone to #GetReal about how they feel.


If you have any questions about the mental health resources available to your organization, please contact us.


1CMHA and UBC national survey on mental health, May 2020 []