article13.09.20236 minutes

Interview with Luc Massicotte: Multiplying Access Points for Suicide Prevention

  • People

The digital ecosystem of holds a very special place at nventive, both for the cause that is close to our hearts and for the long-standing collaboration that has resulted. Luc Massicotte, interim CEO of the Association québécoise de prévention du suicide (AQPS), tells us about the history of the project, its contribution to the AQPS mission and its concrete impact on people in distress, their loved ones and those bereaved by suicide.

Hello Luc! First, can you introduce yourself and tell us about your role?

Hello, I'm the interim CEO of the Association québécoise de prévention du suicide (AQPS), but typically, I’ve held the position of Director of Digital Strategy and Services since I joined the team in 2019. I work on the development of the digital strategy surrounding, among other things.

If you had to sum up the role of the AQPS, how would you describe it?

The Association is a non-profit organization that has existed since 1986, and has played many roles since its creation. Today, it transfers and spreads awareness of the issue of suicide, while mobilizing communities, citizens and organizations wishing to contribute to suicide prevention. On the one hand, AQPS raises public awareness and demystifies suicide; on the other, it calls on decision-makers of all kinds to solicit more resources. And now, we've got our foot in service offering through

Can you give us an overview of the current suicide situation in Quebec?

Quebec's knowledge and capacity to act on distress are great. We're one of the places per capita on the planet where there are the most researchers on the issue of suicide. Our intervention methods are world-renowned! The quality, quantity and intensity of suicide prevention services have clearly improved: there are many more services available, and above all, they are much more easily accessible.

Suicide prevention is a public health issue that continues to give cause for concern, but one that is nonetheless making progress. There are still over 1,000 deaths per year, an average of more than 3 per day, but the situation improved in the early 2000s, when we reached a sort of mortality ceiling. Since then, suicide rates have fallen modestly, but steadily.

What impact has the platform had on this assessment?

There definitely is a contribution! The first impact is access to intervention. The goal of is to be able to offer intervention by means other than the telephone or face-to-face meetings, with paid, specialized humans, by chat and text. This is a significant step forward in terms of boosting accessibility to certain more remote or vulnerable communities.

The second impact is that we've reached a modern age: we now have an extremely solid digital ecosystem for intervention and information sharing. But we've only just begun this digital shift. In terms of innovation, we’re in no means not top of the class. Tel-Jeunes, Jeunesse J'écoute, the Americans have had similar products for a long time. But we're sending out a signal that we're making the shift, and that's the first step.

What we want is for people in distress to have rapid access to resources. complements existing services and strengthens the safety net. Technology has made it possible to increase service intensity. No matter where you are, in what situation, at what time, you can get help.

How did the planning of the project begin?

We wanted to be able to offer an experience that fit into a logical model and met a need. So the first step on the AQPS side was to carry out UX research, but with more of a clinical approach than a digital one. Once we had our results, we asked nventive to join the project to consolidate these two approaches. With your expertise, we combined our clinical knowledge and predictions of digital behavior with observation of real user behavior.

Although the clinical and digital approaches complement each other, we can't say that they are complementary all the time. Take screening, for example: users must answer a number of questions before accessing the intervention via text or chat. Having to fill in a long questionnaire is not part of digital best practices, where everything has to be quickly accessible. But we need to obtain this information, and it must be supported by technology to enable us to offer our service. It's a challenge that nventive and AQPS are still working on, so that clinical needs serve the digital experience, and vice versa.

How did nventive's contribution help to amplify your mission?

Even though we are a large organization in the suicide prevention field, we had no in-house technology structure. nventive helped us tremendously in adopting the right posture to properly manage our tech project.

Working with nventive also gave us credibility in the technology field. We won three OCTAS awards in the first year of operation! For us, who don't come from the digital world, this is very important. We felt the nventive team's commitment to the cause and the project. We have truly found a partner focused on our mission and objective.

What do you think sets apart from other solutions on the market?

What maybe sets our approach apart is that we've offered a complete ecosystem right from the start. Information platform, mobile application, chat and text intervention, all at once! But in terms of solutions, it's hard to compare ourselves with other players in suicide prevention. We don't work in a competitive environment. There's a mutual support that you don't find in other fields, because we're all working towards a common mission. We don't try to differentiate ourselves, but rather to constantly improve.

We worked closely with doctorate researcher Louis-Philippe Côté, our lead scientific advisor, who has done a lot of research with UQÀM and knows just about every digital suicide prevention solution in the world. With his help, we decided to put together a collage of the most interesting and relevant features, but with a Quebec twist.

One of the added values that AQPS may have over what is being done elsewhere is the energy and dedication we have put into developing ethical and cybersecurity parameters for our users. We have an ethical and governance practice of which I am very proud.

In which direction would you like to see the ecosystem evolve?

First of all, we'd like to develop tools that will more easily link our users to healthcare professionals. We have incredibly valuable data for the suicide prevention community. In an ethical, safe and academic context, we'd like to ensure that this data can be used to improve and develop standard clinical practice.

Secondly, I want the platform to remain innovative. Of course, we're keeping a close eye on what's happening in artificial intelligence (AI) to see how we can improve the user experience. But rest assured: we will never set up a conversational robot for our chatting or texting services. Instead, we're thinking of using AI to help people access content even more quickly, and even more specifically to their profile.

In my opinion, marks an upgrade. We've been playing catch-up technologically, and we're going to have to keep innovating, especially when it comes to detecting people in distress. We need to find a way of reaching these people in the digital platforms they use, so that we can help them. It's a constant challenge, and one that lies at the heart of AQPS's digital strategy.