Support for national suicide prevention strategy growing throughout Canada

FEBRUARY 8, 2011

OTTAWA – Today New Democrats launch a campaign in support of An Act Respecting a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention introduced in the House of Commons in November 2010. The Act directs the Federal government to establish a national suicide prevention strategy, in consultation with the provincial, territorial, and First Nations governments.

“Since introducing the private members' bill, I have received calls and emails of support from individuals, organizations, and politicians across the country,” said Megan Leslie MP (Halifax), Health critic for the NDP. “The enormous impact suicide has on families, friends and communities is clear from the stories I’ve been hearing. There are many people out there working to prevent suicide, and we know from other countries that a coordinated national strategy would expand and strengthen their efforts.”

Each day ten people commit suicide in Canada, with over 3500 Canadians dying each year. It is the third leading cause of death among 25 to 49 year olds, and the second leading cause of death in the 10 to 24 age group. The suicide rate for aboriginal youth is four to six times higher than that of non-aboriginal Canadians. Other vulnerable groups include seniors, and lesbian, gay and transgendered individuals.

Niki Ashton MP (Churchill) and Youth critic for the NDP, supported Leslie’s bill. Ashton has expressed particular concern with the high rate of Aboriginal youth suicide. “It is tragic to hear the stories of hopelessness that drive so many young Aboriginal people to feel there is no way out but to take their own lives.” said Ashton. “We need a strategy to prevent suicide so that young people can find a way out of depression or substance abuse and live to fulfill their potential.”

Amidst the supporters, the City Council of Sarnia, Ontario, is one of the many endorsers of the bill. “Megan Leslie’s private member’s bill has given hope to the community of Sarnia by advocating for a national strategy,” said Mike Bradley, Mayor of Sarnia. “Sarnia, like many Canadian communities, has been rocked by an epidemic of suicides among young people. The bill has shone a spotlight on an issue that many Canadians are confronting and gives hope to those struggling with mental health issues.”

Leslie is launching a campaign to build support for the bill which will include a letter, petition, postcard, an article by Mayor Bradley, and ways to participate through social media. The information and requests for endorsements will be sent to health care organizations, governments, community groups and individuals throughout the country.

“I want to let people know there is a way to communicate with the federal government,” said Leslie. “The need for suicide prevention efforts at a national level is a message that must be heard and acted upon.”