Hi, this is André Picard. I'm the public health reporter at The Globe and Mail. I write extensively about health policy, including mental health policy. I look forward to your questions and comments.
Hi, I'm James Thomas. I lost my sister to suicide at the age of 18 back in 2005. Since then I been really dedicated to overcoming my own struggles with mental illness and increasing awareness about suicide prevention and mental health - in which I've produced a documentary titled "the Truth About Teenage Suicide" and have developed a multimedia presentation for a campaign I've developed called "High 5 For Life". Both are targeted towards youth, parents and professionals and will soon be officially released,
Hello, I am Nicole Pearson from Carleton Place and a parent who went through the unthinkable, the loss of my son Brett to suicide in 2006 at the age of 16. I have a strong belief that suicide can be discussed in a sensitive and informative way to the youth by way of school presentations and have been doing this since 2007 in Lanark County. I have given 40 presentations to date and the youth have been responsive to the topic. I am a member of the Carleton Place Drug Strategy Committee, Our Communities Care Project and have full support from Open Doors for Lanark Children and Youth, schools, parents and the Ontario Provincial Police.
Hi, I'm Erin Anderssen, a feature writer at the Globe and Mail, and one of the co-authors of the teen suicide series. I write regularly about mental heath, education, family issues and social policy.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth after traffic accidents. I agree that we must implement a suicide strategy sooner than later. We have test for bowel cancer, mammograms for breast cancer, therefore why is suicide less important? It is imperative that we examine suicide prevention techniques in our schools.
James, As Andre's story points out school is an ideal place to implement prevention strategies since it can reach a lot of kids. What did you school do well in this area, and what you have wanted it to do that it didn't?
The in school programs can be great because it allows them and encourages them to reach out and get help right away - and many do come forward for them or their friends... The challenge tends to be creating long term change in those schools and connecting better with the parents who - alot of them seem to busy to get the information, let alone take the time with thier kids
You are quite correct that teen suicide is just one part of a larger problem. Middle-age men are the group where suicide is most prevelant. However, successful suicide strategies target high-risk groups: teens; aboriginals; prisoners; lesbians & gays, etc. The teen years are key though because that is when mental health problems tend to arise and when young people can learn "mental health literacy" that will serve them for life.
Hi DWS, Your point is well-taken - middle aged men and older men, especially, have higher rates of suicide. However, the new research on mental health shows that if you catch and address the problems early, treatment and intervention are much more successful. Many mental health disorders begin in adolescence. It's also easier to reach this demographic for positive mental health education because they are in school. The idea then is that if you address it earlier, you prevent or ameliorate problems in adulthood.
I honestly believe that we must enhance community care resources as well by increasing the use of schools and workplaces as access points for mental health and develop safe and effective programs in educational settings to address adolescent distress and crisis intervention. My son Brett was more willing to accept help in the school environment (counsellors) than going to a formal appointment. We must make it easier for the youth to reach out.
Todd: Education/counselling programs created by bureaucrats can be lame. The Quebec experience shows that teens respond best to peer counsellors. (And Quebec reduced its teen suicide rate by half in a decade.) Help lines are also using new methods like text instead of traditional phone lines.
With everyone I've spoken to - it's always been a matter of finding the right person to connect with and being supportive in that process with them. It's much like dating where we don't all connect with everyone on the same level and each person you don't connect with means that you're that much closer to finding someone you do... Keep hope alive and continue searching for new connections - sometimes it's not even the "professionals" that can be the pivotal connection for someone to begin their pathway for change - but someone whose overcame the same struggles and sees the potential your brother has...
Still in grief, I am very sorry to hear about your son. I appreciate you joining the discussion. I remember one conversation I had with a teenage girl for the series who told me that friends are often the first ones to hear about suicidal thoughts, but they are't sure how to respond - and they often still belief that talking about will encourage it. I think you raise an excellent point, kids need to be told that anytime a friend talks about suicide they go to an adult - but they also need to know how to deal with in the moment - things like acknowledging the pains someone is feeling, and strategies like making plans for the next day.
The school presentations I deliver in the schools, I discuss at length how the youth can reach out to a friend because they are the first one that they will speak to. Also, I mention to them that a friend may recognize stress in another friend easier that someone else. I encourage the kids to to get their friend to talk, to get the problem out, to be non-judgemental and not to put them them down and take action. They may actually save their friend's life. I also give them resources to reach out to.
izzy I agree there - and have came to realize that it makes it even more important for us as individuals to be better equipped on how to better support someone who is struggling... The second thing we need to do is step back and recognize the real changes we need to make as individuals in our society - which are causing such high numbers in mental illness and suicide which most commonly first occur as teenagers.
Izzy: You're quite right. A strategy is only the starting point, the resources have to be there to make it a reality. In Canada, the single biggest problem we have is lack of time access to care. When a person is suicidal, it is an medical emergency; yet the wait time to see a psychiatrist in most provinces extends beyond six months. We have wait time targets for hip replacements, MRIs, cataracts, etc. Why don't we have them for access to psychological/psychiatric help. It's about political priorities.
Izzy43, Andre makes an excellent point. We also need to better educate family doctors and emergency room physyicians, who are the first contact for many people. We need to make mental health wellness a more concerted part of the school curriculum. We need to provide better support to families who are caring for someone with mental illness. And we need to educate ourselves, to remove the stigma.
It is estimated that about 95 per cent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness. About half of them are seeing a medical professional. But suicide is complex: A host of factors come into play including mental illness, addiction, opportunity, triggers, etc.
Andre, I share your thoughts. The timing is crucial if we are going to rescue a youth or any individual with suicidal thoughts. The wait and see approach could cost a life. A family in crisis needs help as soon as possible. We need better cooperation and horizontal communications with the organizations involved with a family in crisis. Timing is everything.
suicide - and mental illness... And I'd say that no matter what, if someone wants to end their life, they are struggling mentally and need some support. No matter what one's stance on mental illness may be.
JackHicks: I am not letting the federal minister of health off-the-hook, I am just stating the political reality. Can and should Ottawa do more? Absolutely. A key role of Health Canada should be to show leadership on public health issues like suicide prevention and, of course, Ottawa has a direct responsibility for provide care to aboriginal people, soldiers/veterans and the RCMP, groups where the suicide rates are particularly abysmal. When the Mental Health Commission publishes a national mental health strategy later this year, a key component should be suicide prevention.
Still in grief - I agree we do all need to come together because that would be really powerful! And at the same time each loss provides a number of valuable lessons for all of us to learn from and clearly some very passionate people about doing so!
Hi Claire, My sympathies for your loss. When you say no one talked about it, can you be more specific? Were you in school at the time? One anecdote I heard from a parent, for instance, was that even in the 1990s, if a student died from suicide, teachers would say nothing, while all the friends were left staring at the empty desk. Thankfully, it looks like we are making a lot of progress now.
Wayoutthere, that's an important point. One of the dad's I interviewed said he'd talked to his son about everything else - girls, pregnancy, drinking and driving - but not suicide. Parents need to know to ask their kids about it, and to remind them to tell an adult if their friends talk about it. Even being in on the "secret", so to speak, can be an effective deterrent.
As we know suicide affects all walks of life. There are youth out there that may not have parents to talk to and the only adults they may have contact with and spend the most time with are teachers. We must equip our teachers with the necessary tools and training to recognize the warning signs.
way out there - I agree that putting money into a system that is flawed in so many ways doesn't make sense to me either.