Preventing and reducing the risk of suicide

Suicide is an urgent public health issue in Nova Scotia. Over 120 Nova Scotians lose their lives to suicide each year and hundreds more make a suicide attempt. Each death and attempted suicide is a tragedy that affects individuals, families and our communities. Yet many suicides are preventable.

Talking about suicide

Using helpful and respectful language to talk about suicide decreases stigma and makes it easier for people to get help. The Government of Canada has a guide about safe language and messages for suicide prevention.

Read more: Language Matters – Safe Language and Messages for Suicide Prevention

Suicide prevention and life promotion

There are different terms used when talking about preventing suicide.

“Suicide prevention” focuses on reducing the risk of suicide. 

“Suicide intervention” is acute care for someone who is in crisis.

“Life promotion” is a broader term. It includes factors that help people build resilience before a crisis happens. Using the term “life promotion” can reduce the risk of suicide by empowering people to lead safe and fulfilling lives.

Suicide prevention and risk reduction framework

Nova Scotia’s framework for preventing and reducing the risk of suicide outlines government’s plan to address this important public health issue. The plan, approved in 2020, calls for collaborative action across sectors to reduce the risk of suicide in the province.

The framework acknowledges that the causes of suicide are complex. It includes 20 recommendations organized into 6 areas:

  • improving suicide-related data monitoring and evaluation
  • identifying and supporting populations at risk
  • strengthening health system capacity
  • extending access to services and supports in the community
  • addressing targeted social issues that increase risk
  • strengthening upstream prevention

Read the framework: Preventing and Reducing the Risk of Suicide – A Framework for Nova Scotia (PDF 543 kB)

Suicide data

It’s important to note that data related to deaths by suicide can be confusing and difficult to interpret for people who aren’t involved in data research.

Data from the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Service is available to the public and is updated monthly. It’s presented in these tables:

Annual deaths by suicide in Nova Scotia

Year Deaths by suicide Suicide mortality rate per 100,000 population
2021 143 14.4
2020 121 12.3
2019 137 14.1
2018 140 14.6
2017 138 14.5
2016 134 14.2
2015 135 14.4
2014 113 12
2013 115 12.2
2012 126 13.4
2011 114 12.1
2010 103 10.9

Note: Data is from the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Service. Numbers are subject to change as case investigations are ongoing.

Statistics Canada also has reliable suicide data, but it can be delayed in compared to the Nova Scotia data. Statistics Canada’s data can be useful for comparing Nova Scotia to other parts of the country.

We know that each death is more than just a number and some segments of the population are disproportionately affected by suicide. There is emerging data related to the social determinants of health and the risk factors for suicide. Data needs to be informed by the community it comes from.

The rate of death from suicide for Mi’kmaq men aged 20-39 is 9 times higher than the general male population of the same age. The Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia have been working together for over a decade to understand and own their health data. The Tui’kn Partnership has developed the Mi’kmaq Client Linkage Registry (MCLR), a population registry that provides communities with a range of population-level health data.

See all Tui’kn Partnership health bulletins : Health Information Bulletins (Tui'kn Partnership)