Suicide is an important public health issue in Canada. Despite this, Canada is one of the only G20 countries without a national action plan on suicide prevention, despite a long-standing recommendation to this effect by the World Health Organization.
Canada urgently needs a national action plan for suicide prevention. The federal government has a role to play in working with the Provinces, Territories as well as First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities on finding strategies that work. This is why the NDP is calling on the government to establish a national action plan for suicide prevention.
In particular, Canada needs a plan that establishes national guidelines and standards for best practices based on evidence in key areas of mental health care, that recognizes the role of the social determinants of health on suicide, that commits to culturally-appropriate and community-based solutions to address the crisis of Indigenous suicide, and creates an online, accessible hub of information for practitioners and the general public. In developing an action plan, the government should undertake comprehensive analyses of risk factors, and report annually to Parliament on progress in implementing the national suicide prevention action plan.
- In 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, Statistics Canada reports that 4,254 Canadians died by suicide.
- Suicide is within the top ten leading causes of death in Canada. It is also the second leading cause of death in young people.
- Unlike many other countries, Canada’s suicide rate is highest among people of middle age, and men are more likely to die by suicide among all age groups.
- Social, psychological, cultural, and other factors can interact to lead a person to suicidal behaviour, but the stigma attached to mental disorders and suicide means that many people feel unable to seek help.
- Québec has cut its overall suicide rate by a third since launching a multifaceted provincial suicide prevention strategy in 1999, with the rate of youth suicide falling by more than 50%.
- Canada is one of the few developed countries not to have a national action plan for suicide prevention, with the exception of the Joint Suicide Prevention Strategy between the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada.
- The Government of Canada’s Federal Framework for Suicide Preventionis not a national strategy. It does not include funding, goals, time lines, or activities that would reduce suicide, and does not assign responsibility for jurisdictional action.
- There are no national data on suicide rates among Indigenous peoples comparable to data available for the United States. Some regional studies do exist – for example, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations has calculated that the rate of death by suicide for 10 to 19 year old First Nations girls in Saskatchewan is just under 30 times the rate of their non-First Nations peers in the province.
- Many (but by no means all) Indigenous communities suffer sharply elevated rates of child and youth suicide. This crisis situation requires concerted action on distal risk factors, early childhood adversity and other developmental precursors of suicide behaviour among children and youth.
- Public health authorities have largely failed to take action and allocate resources to suicide prevention in Indigenous communities to a degree commensurate with the social burden of suicide-related suffering in those communities.
- The national Inuit representative organization, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, demonstrated leadership by developing a National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for national action on suicide in the House of Commons in October, 2011: “We must take action because we can. We need to have a national suicide strategy to reach people in need in every sector of our society. We must put our efforts into improving life for our citizens. That is what we on this side of the House sincerely believe in and we hope the government will act accordingly.”
- Minister Carolyn Bennett also called for national action on suicide prevention in the House of Commons: “We want a real strategy and that means, what, when and how. We want it based in evidence and we want it funded properly. This means that there has to be an ability to use the research and knowledge, and translate that into effective policies, political will, effective programs and practices. It means ongoing applied research that takes us back to better research that can really identify best practices. We then have to have the nerve to put it in place.”