WATERLOO REGION —
Canada will no longer be among the few industrialized countries lacking a suicide prevention strategy.
That is because on Friday, a bill geared at developing a federal framework for suicide prevention, sponsored by Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht, was signed into law.
Albrecht said he put forward the private member’s bill, Bill C-300, after receiving feedback from the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council that suggested a national strategy was needed.
“There was an issue about two years ago when three youth in different high schools in Waterloo Region died by suicide in the same week,” Albrecht said recounting the events that led to his decision to put forward the bill.
“At that point I realized that this is an issue and if and when I could get a private member’s slot in the lottery I would do something surrounding the issue of suicide prevention.”
Nearly 4,000 Canadians die by suicide each year.
In Waterloo Region, over 600 visits to emergency rooms were made on average each year between 2005 and 2009 because of suicide attempts.
“It is a pretty serious situation that we have in our country … that alone is a good enough reason to have some sort of national framework so we can all work together,” said Rob Martin, chair of the local suicide prevention council.
In the next 180 days, the federal government will designate an overseeing body to begin collaborative efforts with suicide prevention groups.
Moving ahead, suicide prevention groups will be able to share best practices, new research and make statistics and risk factors available publicly.
“I hope that we can take the best of what we’re all doing and share it. When you have ten people working in a room come together, they’re going to have a better product than if … they were working by themselves,” Martin said.
In addressing suicide as a public health issue, the broader awareness will help reduce the stigma about suicide and educate citizens on identifying and addressing risk factors.
“This is not simply a mental health issue, it’s a public health issue in that every one of us has a role to play, just normal ordinary Canadian citizens. We have to keep our ears open and be attentive to those we go to work with and those we go to school with,” Albrecht said of the impact public awareness can have.
Agreeing with the bill’s potential impact, Martin added, “As far as I’m concerned, this is a big step toward saving more lives.”
By bringing the issue of suicide to the forefront of public discourse, Martin said it would not only help in preventing more suicides but also help survivors that have lost loved ones.
“If we’re all talking about it a little bit more openly with some positive ways to manage the grief after suicide and the ways to save lives, I hope that will encourage people who have been affected to talk about it and not just grieve on their own,” Martin said.
The bill had received almost unanimous support in parliament, which Albrecht said reflects the prevalence of suicide across the country.
“I think there probably is not one parliamentarian that hasn’t been impacted by suicide to some degree,” said Albrecht. “So I think everyone realizes that anything we can do to minimize death by suicide is a step in the right direction.”
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