Suicide Prevention: Current Problems

Suicide Prevention Plans

May 20, 2020


Flaws in “Pillars for Life”

Regina Leader-Post – Given the fact that Saskatchewan has the highest rate of death by suicide of any province in the country, and that the suicide rate is increasing, the document is a travesty. Having read and assessed more than 100 suicide prevention strategies from around the world, I take no pleasure in saying that I have never read anything as weak as Saskatchewan’s. Not even close.” Jack Hicks.

National media attention has alerted Canadians to the gravity of the suicide situation in northern Saskatchewan. Teenage First Nations girls in this province die by suicide at a rate almost 30 times that of their non-Indigenous peers. How is that sharply elevated burden of suffering from a “largely preventable” public health problem not a matter of urgency for our society?

Asked about the province’s failure to act on the Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations Suicide Prevention strategy, Minister for Rural and Remote Health Warren Kaeding told a Star Phoenix reporter last week that “Suicide is a provincial concern,” and that “There is no one specific entity that we’re going to be able to fund along that line.”

Let us be clear. If white girls in this province had a suicide rate 30 times that of First Nations girls, concerted action would be taken. A very different suicide prevention strategy would have been released, with the funding required to ensure effective implementation.

The province’s strategy confirms the ongoing systemic racism in health care in Saskatchewan.

May 13, 2020


Flaws in “Pillars for Life”

The Star Phoenix – Jack Hicks, who helped draft suicide prevention plans for Nunavut and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said the provincial government’s “Pillars for Life” strategy doesn’t have a clear path to implementation and sets goals that are “so vague as to be meaningless.”

Nor does it address the underlying reasons for high suicide rates among northern communities, Indigenous people or youth. The word “trauma” does not appear in the plan, which Hicks takes as a sign that First Nations and Métis concerns are not adequately represented. The document is only eight pages long, three of which are taken up by the bibliography and the introduction.

Hicks said it doesn’t get at the root of why Saskatchewan’s suicide rate, which was roughly double the national average in 2018, is so high in the first place.

September 17, 2019

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

National Paper on Youth Suicide

The Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates (CCCYA) published “A National Paper on Youth Suicide” that calls on governments at the national, provincial and territorial levels to take concrete action to prevent youth suicide in Canada. Failure to address the multi-faceted issues impacting indigenous communities has led to a suicide epidemic.

The paper consolidates research by the CCCYA members that led to the identification of three broad findings related to youth suicide:

  • the impact of traumatic childhood experiences,
  • the importance of service integration and
  • continuity and how the voices of children and youth needs to be at the front of change.
    National Paper on Youth Suicide: Calls to Action

Calls to Action

  1. The Government of Canada develop and implement a fully resourced National Suicide Strategy with designated funding to the provinces and territories to create their own, or to support existing strategies where applicable. Whether at the federal, provincial or territorial level, young people must be included in all stages of development and implementation.
  2. The Government of Canada develop and implement a cross-jurisdictional, standardized, data system and to compel provinces in the mandatory reporting of attempted and completed suicide.
  3. The Government of Canada shall engage in meaningful partnerships with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities experiencing elevated rates of suicidal behaviour of young people and develop interventions to eliminate these health disparities. This work should draw on the leadership and expertise of Indigenous youth and Elders whenever possible.

June 19, 2021


Rejection of Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Protection Act

Bill No. 618 — The Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act introduced for the second time by NDP MLA Doyle Vermette was defeated by the ruling conservative Saskatchewan Party members who voted unanimously against the measure. “One of the key elements of Doyle’s bill was consultation with First Nations and Métis leadership, with community leadership, with families,” NDP Leader Ryan

Meili said. “And none of that went into the development of “Pillars of Life”. The bill would have required the provincial government to establish a provincial strategy that recognizes suicide as a not only a mental health issue, but a public health issue as well.

According to the Saskatchewan Coroners Service, 2,338 people have died by suicide from 2005 to 2019 in the province. Twenty-eight per cent of those people were Indigenous.

January 28, 2021


Resilience in Life

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. – released the “2015-2017 Annual Report on the State of Inuit Culture and Society entitled Resilience in Life”, which focuses on pathways to reducing suicide in Nunavut. “Some of our youth grow up believing that suicide is part of our culture. It is not. It is a symptom of colonization and on-going social and economic inequities that cause distress among too many Nunavut Inuit. Resilience in Life outlines a path forward to wellness based on Inuit-specific, evidence-based policy approaches”, said Acting President James Eetoolook.

The SICS report recommends that governments aim to create social equity among Nunavut Inuit by implementing Article 32 of the Nunavut Agreement to address persistent gaps in areas such as housing, formal education, food security, and health care.

NTI encourages the Government of Nunavut and the Government of Canada take heed to recommendations in the report. The recommendations will require collaboration, resource sharing and thinking about broad approaches to our shared goal. Colonialism and intergenerational trauma under- pin the social and economic inequity affecting many Nunavut Inuit. Experiences, such as residential schooling, relocation, dog slaughter, and the loss of loved ones to epidemic diseases, have left deep im- prints on our society. The rapid social and cultural transitions that coincided with these experiences gave rise to social challenges that we now under- stand as suicide risk factors, such as addictions, childhood adversity, and mental illness. These social challenges are compounded by inequities, such as lack of access to housing and health services, low educational attainment and employment, and food insecurity, that prevent many Inuit from reaching their highest levels of health and wellness.

The suicide rate among Inuit in the eastern Arctic first rose above the national rate for all Canadians in the early 1970s. This generation of Inuit was the first to grow up in settlements, where many people were exposed to a host of risk factors for suicide. Successive generations of Inuit have continued to experience social inequities and their associated challenges because governments have never provided reciprocal investments in social equity or adequate services and supports to meet the needs of Inuit in our own languages.

The GN has twice declared suicide a crisis and has yet to fully implement the 2010–2014 Nunavut Suicide Prevention Strategy Action Plan, the development of which is the most significant suicide prevention action taken to date by the GN.

May 7, 2020


Stop Giving Me a Number and Start Giving Me a Person

Manitoba Child and Youth Advocate: In Manitoba, suicide is the leading manner of death for young people ages 10-17.
On national Youth Mental Health Day the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth released “Stop Giving Me a Number and Start Giving Me a Person: How 22 Girls Illuminate the Cracks in the Manitoba Youth Mental Health and Addiction System”. The report focuses on the suicide of 22 girls aged 11-17 from mostly rural and norther communities between 2013 -2019. 20 of the victims were either First Nations or Métis.

These girls did not have appropriate access to mental health and addictions services where they lived. And as we know from past reports, like The Slow Disappearance of Matthew (February 2020), demand for these provincial services in Winnipeg already outpaces supply,” Penrose said. All of the girls in this report also experienced early childhood traumas, but only three were offered some type of professional trauma-related interventions in their early and middle years.

Similar to the findings of our 22 child death investigations, the Virgo Report repeatedly noted that the availability of, and accessibility to, services in the mental health and addictions systems vary greatly across our province by region. Rural and remote communities throughout Manitoba, for example, experience limited access to services and supports due to their location and the availability of service providers. Of course, these rural. and remote locations, where services are limited or non-existent are also the locations populated by Indigenous Peoples. This leads to unequal access to provincial services, which is a children’s rights issue.

This current investigation found that many of the Virgo Report’s criticisms of Manitoba’s youth mental health and addictions system remain true today and are certainly reflected in the stories of the 22 girls which informed this report. These include a lack of access to locally available services, a lack of follow-up support after crisis, service providers not communicating and collaborating to carry out plans, a lack of access to culturally appropriate services, and services that do not match the needs of youth


  • Conduct a gap analysis – The province must see what services are available in youth mental health and addictions and release a public framework and its strategic plan for system overhaul.
  • Demonstrate equitable access to services – The province must spread youth mental health and addictions services throughout Manitoba in any future frameworks or strategic plans.
  • Train workers on trauma and its effects – The province must provide early childhood trauma education to all government service providers working with children and youth.
  • Help families learn where the right resources are – The province must conduct and publicize an annual inventory of what therapeutic trauma interventions are available to children and youth in Manitoba, describing whether services require referrals and what their eligibility criteria are.
  • Create more youth hubs – In keeping with recommendation 4.8 of the Virgo Report, the province must establish more youth hubs outside of Winnipeg, providing access to community-based services like counselling, tutoring and extracurricular activities
  • Create “focal points” outside of Winnipeg – In keeping with recommendation 2.11 of the Virgo Report, the province must develop “focal points” outside Winnipeg, so that all Manitobans can have access to urgent and acute mental health and addictions clinicians and other professionals and services closer to their homes.
  • Create long-term treatment for youth with the highest needs – The province must develop an inpatient or community-based long-term treatment facility that offers stabilization, assessment, treatment and aftercare for youth at the top tier of mental health and addiction service needs.

September 13, 2021


Walking with our Angels

CBC – The rejection of Vermette’s proposal led Tristen Durocher to walk 635 kilometers to Regina from Air Ronge in early July to raise awareness about suicide in the province. Once in Regina, he set up a teepee in front of the provincial legislature and started a ceremonial fast. His protest, which he called Walking With Our Angels, was a response to a suicide prevention bill put forward by the NDP that was voted down by the provincial government. He said his stay in front of the Saskatchewan legislature building has been educational.

“I learned a lot about the state of the Canadian public’s attitudes towards Indigenous people,” Durocher said. “And I learned a lot about how unwilling the government is to acknowledge a lot of problems that afflict the northern section of our province.” He added there are a lot of members of the public who are unwilling to “even take a baby step” toward the goal of reconciliation. “Our premier is one of those people because he did speak about reconciliation being a journey, we all need to work together while reconciliation was right across the road,” Durocher said. “And he didn’t do absolutely anything, he sent a few subordinates, he himself didn’t even acknowledge that we exist.”

“Reconciliation was right across the road and he refused to take a single step.”

Other Current Problems By Theme

States of Emergency

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No Child Left Behind

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Breaking Point: The Suicide Crisis in Indigenous Communities

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