10/04/2011 02:06 EDT | Updated 12/04/2011 05:12 EST

Liberals Say Ottawa Has Responsibility To Act On Suicide Crisis, Mental Illness


OTTAWA - Members of Parliament set aside a focus on Canada's financial health today to debate the nation's mental health.

The Liberals are calling for a national suicide prevention strategy and are devoting their opposition day in the House of Commons to highlight the issue.

Liberal Leader Bob Rae has admitted he's struggled with depression in the past and says there has been progress in how Canadians speak about mental illness.

He says treatment has improved as well.

Although Conservative MPs acknowledged the seriousness of the issue, they say the government is already taking action.

They pointed to the creation of the Mental Health Commission, which is supposed to report back with a strategy on mental illness by 2012.

But Rae says no one can say they've done enough when it comes to preventing suicide.

MPs of all sides used the debate to highlight high rates of suicide among young Canadians and aboriginals.

But they also spoke of former Saskatchewan Tory MP Dave Batters, who killed himself in 2009.

His family is now active in suicide prevention as is the family of NHL coach Luke Richardson, whose daughter killed herself last year.

Rae says Parliament needs to follow those examples and take a lead role, especially among the military and First Nations, which are federal responsibilities.