Yesterday, World Suicide Prevention Day, gave us an opportunity to talk about the tragedy of suicide and its broad impact on families and communities. Indeed there are few Canadians who have not been touched by suicide; over 4000 Canadians a year, take their own lives. But the stigma surrounding suicide has kept us all silent and afraid. The feelings of guilt and shame that surround depression and mental illness have kept the issue hidden.
Suicide is the second highest cause of death amongst male youth 15-25. The rate is seven and eleven times higher, respectively, among Aboriginal and Inuit populations and suicide among LGBT youth is five times the national average. Suicides in the Canadian military have nearly doubled in the last year and studies indicate that veterans have a higher risk for suicide than the rest of Canadians. Seniors are also a high risk group. Yet suicide is preventable.
Last October, in an effort to remove the stigma of suicide, Liberals put forward a motion, in Parliament, to develop a national Suicide Prevention Strategy. It was a rare and moving day in the House of Commons, when Parliamentarians of all political stripes stood up to speak on how suicide had affected their lives or the lives of someone close. Indeed, all Parties in the house agreed that talk was not enough and voted to develop a National Suicide Prevention Strategy in co-ordination with federal, provincial governments, health care professionals, affected families and NGOs.
Unfortunately, despite government support for the motion, a year later, still no action has been taken. There is a Conservative MP’s Private Members Bill calling for a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, but it lacks a concrete plan and ‘teeth.’ In fact, several amendments to strengthen the Bill made by witnesses and experts were voted down by Conservative MPs on the Health Committee.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada released its Mental Health Strategy in May 2012, which highlighted suicide prevention; however the Conservative government to date has not given a substantive response.
The real tragedy is, because suicide is preventable, each day that we fail to create a National Suicide Prevention Strategy, we compound this tragic human loss.
I truly hope that by the next World Suicide Prevention Day, Canada would have a National Suicide Prevention Strategy in place.
Dr. Hedy Fry
Liberal Health Critic
MP, Vancouver Centre