OBJECTIVES The aim of this paper is to identify at-risk groups for a focused suicide prevention program for Malaysia. METHODS Data from 20,552 persons aged 16 years and above (males 45.9%), was obtained using stratified, random sampling in a national survey of psychiatric morbidity using locally validated General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28) which included questions on suicidal ideation. RESULTS The overall prevalence of suicidal ideation (SI) was 6.3%, CI 6.1-6.8 (n=1288). Logistic regression analysis was performed with age, ethnicity, gender, urban/rural residence, age group, marital status, household income, type of household, presence of chronic pain, social dysfunction, somatic, anxiety or depressive symptoms, obesity, and chronic medical illnesses as independent variables. Only Insomnia, Religion, Marital Status, Depression, Social Dysfunction and Anxiety were seen to be significant predictors. Prevalence of SI was significantly higher among Indians (11.0%, CI 9.5-12.5), especially those of the Hindu faith (12.2%, CI 10.5-14.0), Chinese (9.7%, CI 8.8-10.7) and those having depressive symptoms. CONCLUSION In a developing country with competing priorities, prudent allocation of resources requires focusing suicide prevention efforts on treating depression in vulnerable groups.