We reviewed the epidemiologic features of suicide in Canada and evaluated suicide prevention programs. Three groups were found to be at increased risk for suicide: men aged 70 years or more, women aged 65 to 69 and men aged 20 to 24. The other groups, in decreasing order of risk, were the mentally ill, people who have attempted suicide, those with a life-threatening illness, native people, people with a family history of suicide and prisoners. Studies that evaluated suicide prevention programs showed that none significantly reduced the incidence of suicide; however, the studies were found to be methodologically inadequate or used noncomparable systems of data collection. On the basis of our findings we recommend that primary care physicians routinely evaluate suicide risk among patients in high-risk groups and that intervention include counselling, follow-up and, if necessary, referral to a psychiatrist. Close follow-up is recommended for newly discharged psychiatric patients and those who recently attempted suicide.