This is a response to MP Ron Liepert’s speech in the House of Commons on Monday, February 4, 2019.
Mara Grunau and Robert Olson, Centre for Suicide Prevention
Our deepest condolences to MP Ron Liepert for the loss of his daughter Kylee, by suicide. There is no grief like suicide grief.
MP Liepert, thank you for courageously sharing the story of your loss with Canadians. Speaking openly about suicide is key to attacking its stigma which prevents people from seeking and offering help.
May MP Charlie Angus’ private members’ bill continue to gain momentum, cross party lines and unite Canadians so that we are no longer the sole G8 country without a national suicide prevention plan. Now is the time.
Suicide is preventable. But doing so requires organized, intentional, collective efforts. A national strategy is the flagship of these efforts. A national strategy formally identifies suicide as the public health crisis that it is and demands commensurate action. It signals to the citizens and the world that the government is committed to combating suicide; suicide will no longer be ignored.
Canada has high rates of suicide. The overall rate is high and certain demographics suffer disproportionately: First Nations and Metis youth, middle-aged men, and Inuit communities are among those with the highest rates in the world. Considering these rates, Canada’s failure to develop and implement a national strategy for suicide prevention is nothing short of irresponsible.
Reported deaths by suicide in Canada are 12 people per 100,000, equating to 4000 lives lost annually. (We know this is underreported: the actual number of suicide deaths is much higher.) 4000 is a big number. It is the equivalent of losing a town the size of Jasper every year, a 747 jet crashing and killing everyone on board every month for a year, losing the population of a small university every year. It is more than double the annual number of traffic fatalities and nearly 10 times the number of homicides. It is 4000 parents, children, friends every year.
As MP Liepert reminded us last week in his moving speech in the House of Commons, the impact of suicide goes beyond the person who dies. Research tells us that 135 people are affected by each suicide death; and it is a grief like none other. Along with the emotional costs, the economic costs are significant: each death amounts to $1,000,000+ in direct and indirect costs. The burden of suicide affects every Canadian.
Despite the grief, agony, the financial balance sheet and the fact that Canada is the last G8 country to the table, the paramount reason we need to address suicide directly is because people who consider suicide are in deep, psychological pain. They do not want to die: they want the pain of living to end. Being ready, willing and able to connect them to the help they need to recover is everyone’s responsibility; we all have a role to play. Together we can shine hope for people at risk of suicide. It is the federal government’s turn to step up.
Read more about why we believe Canada needs a suicide prevention strategy in our article, Does Canada need a national suicide prevention strategy?