Latimer: National suicide prevention strategy one small step closer

Last month, the House of Commons passed a non-partisan motion in support of developing a national suicide prevention strategy.

Last month, the House of Commons passed a non-partisan motion in support of developing a national suicide prevention strategy—bringing us one important step closer to ensuring suicide is seen as a real public health issue in our country.

Although it is a topic no one particularly likes to talk about, suicide is more common than we sometimes think and it is not just a personal tragedy.

Suicide is a public health issue and needs to be treated as such and considered in health policies across the country.

Every year approximately 4,000 Canadians commit suicide and 100 times as many deliberately harm themselves but do not die as a result. Staggering numbers if you consider less than 3,000 people die in car accidents in a given year in our country.

Accidents and suicide are the leading causes of death among youth aged 15 to 34 and what makes this all the more tragic is the fact that most suicides could likely be prevented.

More than 90 per cent of suicide victims are known to have one or more psychiatric disorders at the time of their death with supports in place and adequate treatment, many of these deaths could be prevented.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) has been advocating for a national strategy in suicide prevention for more than a decade.

With unified and organized leadership coming from a government body, the hope is that suicide prevention will get the attention and funding it needs in determining health policies as our country moves forward.

International guidelines call for the development of national strategies regarding suicide prevention and Canada is one of few developed countries yet to adopt one.

Now it seems that politicians of every stripe are finally joining the unified stance of major mental health organizations including the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Mental Health Association along with CASP in recognizing the need for a national strategy to deal with the many complexities involved in suicide and its prevention.

Suicide prevention requires more public awareness surrounding mental health issues and a corresponding reduction in the stigma attached to mental illness.

People need to feel free to admit their problems and seek appropriate help without fearing social or professional repercussions.

Some signs that a loved one may be at risk of suicide include previous suicide attempt(s); mental health conditions and particularly mood disorders; substance abuse; family history of suicide; hopelessness or helplessness; barriers to accessing mental health services; recent loss; stressful life events; or unwillingness to seek help because of stigma.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above risk factors, are feeling overwhelming helplessness or despair and feeling suicidal for any reason—seek help.

Talk to someone you trust and enlist the aid of a professional. If you are feeling all alone as though you have no one to talk to, contact the local crisis center.

You can call 24 hours at 250-763-9191 or email at

Please voice your support for the development of a national strategy in suicide prevention. Contact your member of parliament.

It is time Canada made this decisive step and a coordinated effort to save the lives of many.





Paul Latimer is a psychiatrist and president of Okanagan Clinical Trials.



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