Preventing Suicide : A Resource For Police, Firefighters And Other First Line Responders

Suicide is recognized as an important public health problem and a major source of preventable deaths worldwide. For every person who commits suicide, there are 20 or more who will attempt suicide. The emotional impact for family and friends affected by completed or attempted suicide may last for many years.

First interveners, such as police officers, firefighters and other responders are often a first line resource for people who have significant mental health, emotional, or substance abuse problems and who may be suicidal. Yet, they are often not well trained in the signs and symptoms of serious mental illness, nor do they always know the most appropriate actions to take when suicidal behaviours are a concern.

Police officers, firefighters and other first line responders are increasingly called upon in situations involving mental health emergencies, such as suicidal crises. Consequently, they occupy an important role in community-based suicide prevention: by ensuring that persons with mental disorders receive appropriate mental health treatment, by removing access to lethal means from people at high risk of suicide, and by recognizing the suicide potential in situations involving domestic disputes or where potentially deadly force is exercised. First responders are in a unique position to determine the course and outcome of suicidal crises.

Their respective institutions may help reduce suicides in the community: by ensuring that first line responders are appropriately trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness, to identify the risks of suicide, and to understand local mental health legislation and how it is used by community 4 agencies, by developing specialized programmes to help them manage mental health and suicidal crises in the field, and by helping to create the inter-agency linkages needed to facilitate access to health and mental health care.

This booklet is written for police officers, firefighters and other first line responders who deal with people in psychological distress, including those who are suicidal. They are often the first ones involved in situations where suicidal behaviours, such as a suicide threat, suicide attempt or completed suicide, have occurred. They work in crisis situations where prompt and efficient interventions are needed and are therefore called "first interveners" or "first responders". This may also include those who first contact the family and friends of a person who committed suicide,