Dealing with the current crisis isn't enough, because this crisis is unending. As the Attawapiskat teen who confronted Bennett pointed out, our First Nations are living in third-world conditions, and that needs to be dealt with first. We need to build livable houses with access to drinkable water. We need to hire permanent local mental health care workers and addiction specialists. We need to get adults jobs, be it developing local resources, producing and selling traditional goods or telecommuting to office jobs. As Bill Yoachim of the Snuneymuxw First Nation on Vancouver Island told CBC when asked about the suicide crisis: "We need to create space, whether through sport or culture or recreation, to make people feel alive."
The biggest complaint I hear from teenagers is that we don't take them seriously. The teens of Attawapiskat have made a list of what they have in their community, their community and social assets if you will. Things like a gym, a Healing Lodge, and a school. They have also made another list: 'What we need.' Notice the list was not titled what we want. Need. These children need a Fitness Centre; it was the first thing on their list. The second was a Track and Field facility. More Sports, a Youth Camp and a clean Swimming Pool. We need to listen now, and give them what they need before it's too late.
The city starts its $35-million makeover of Burrard Bridge this month, so expect traffic chaos. Mostly, though, I feel hoodwinked by the consultation process, which changed nothing except for adding a major element which was not spoken of at all. The city decided, after the consultation, to include suicide prevention barriers after one single health officer spoke to the city to insist they should be done.
Michael Wilson, the chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, has called for funding for a program of citizen gatekeepers all over Canada who can spot likely suicides and prevent them. It appears that the MHCC loves to set up programs that make people feel better but that have never been demonstrated to be effective. And sadly, this new one could be just as much of a waste of time and money. Here's why.
Despite recent headlines, Canadian rates of suicide and attempted suicide have remained largely unchanged over the last several decades. What has changed is that we've seen increasing rates of suicide in the Canadian military recently, after stable rates for decades. The problem of suicide is not limited to the military in Canada; indigenous populations, especially in northern remote communities, have high rates of suicide. We need a unified approach across provincial and federal sectors to reduce suicides in the military, among veterans and civilians.
In Canada, it's not clear to what extent inpatient suicides, or unsuccessful attempts that lead to disability, are considered "never events" by healthcare decision makers, or who is keeping track of them for that matter. The fact is there is a wall of secrecy that surrounds hospital suicide and attempts at self-harm in Canada.
The majority of people refer to the act of somebody taking their own life as "committing suicide." We tend to most often use the word "commit" when it comes to the act of carrying out a crime. The act of suicide was once a crime but its now widely known that suicide is most often the result of mental illness.
The plan was to drive off the neighbourhood bridge. It had one of those flimsy corrugated steel side rails at the bottom of a steep hill and curve. I always felt those railings were only a token effort to protect against plans such as this. I had spent the morning running errands and my two-year-old was fast asleep in her car seat in the back. I had installed that seat with the help of a police officer and I knew it was secure and designed to protect on impact. I could see her in my rearview mirror and had a moment of doubt thinking of what I would miss out on.
I often use cancer as an example when making a point about the lack of support when speaking of mental illness because the very fact that cancer campaigns are many, funding is frequent, and nobody denies its existence nor attributes stigma to the disease is the direct antithesis of that ascribed to any mental illness.
Farmers are committing suicide as you read this article. In countries like India, the rate of farmer suicides has become a national crisis. The World Health Organization (WHO) is particularly concerned with farmer suicides because of the impact it is having on families. WHO estimates that one person commits suicide every 13.3 minutes.
The death of comedian Robin Williams last month sparked a worldwide discussion about suicide, its underlying causes and how it might be prevented. And, with World Suicide Prevention Day taking place Sept. 10, the subject is certain to generate more debate as people seek to understand this important health issue. Having spent 10 years researching the subject while working as a professor of psychiatry, I believe there are things we can do as a community to tackle this problem. With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to reflect on what researchers have learned over the years about strategies for preventing suicide.