Calgary, AB – Yesterday the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate of Alberta (OCYA) released their March 2021 Mandatory Report, which asked the Ministries of Health and Children’s Services to share the actions taken and results achieved in the first two years of Alberta’s five-year youth suicide prevention plan, as well as steps for action to be taken in the coming two years. We commend the OCYA for continuing their important work in reviewing the deaths of young people in Alberta and providing recommendations to the Government of Alberta.

We also commend the Government of Alberta for developing Building Strength, Inspiring Hope: A Provincial Action Plan for Youth Suicide Prevention 2019 − 2024 and launching its implementation. Two years in, it is important to take stock of the work thus far and set the course for the next phase. Promising outcomes have emerged, including Community-led life promotion plans for Indigenous youth and communities, a Guide focused on preventing Indigenous youth suicide. The Guide was co-created with Indigenous Elders, youth, and Knowledge Keepers from across Alberta with Centre for Suicide Prevention and the Government of Alberta. Copies of the Guide were delivered to all Indigenous communities throughout the province. Communities can also elect to have the Guide professionally facilitated to support the process.

Suicide prevention, as with all social change, is long term work. We urge the Government of Alberta to continue and extend its commitment to this critical issue through 2024 and beyond.

Driving down the suicide rate requires time, resources, leadership, coordination among many stakeholders and a multi-pronged approach, as illustrated in Building Strength, Inspiring Hope.

The clearest example of this work in Canada is from the province of Québec. In 1998, the Québec Ministry of Health and Social Services implemented Hope for Life, a suicide prevention plan similar in principle to Building Strength, Inspiring Hope. They led and resourced the work and coordinated a myriad of community stakeholders for more than a decade. Their results speak for themselves: in 1999 the Québec suicide rate was 22.2/100,000 and in 2012, it was 13.7/100,000. The youth rate alone decreased 50% during that time.

We can do this in Alberta. It takes long term commitment, leadership, coordination and resourcing. We urge the Government of Alberta to continue to prioritize youth suicide prevention.