Mr. Speaker, this is Quebec's 22nd National Suicide Prevention Week. Thus there is no better time to talk about this bill. This year's theme is: “In our community, we care; suicide is not an option” and the goal is to change a certain cultural mentality about suicide.
In order to better understand this problem, it is important to know that suicide is not just an individual action. According to the Association québécoise de prévention du suicide, the act of suicide is related to the social and cultural context.
If suicide exists, it is because a type of distress exists that can take many forms and can be caused by many factors, including poverty, a sudden change in financial status, a social change, an illness or the termination of a romantic relationship.
As Rose-Marie Charest, president of the Ordre des psychologues du Québec, so wisely said:
An individual who is thinking about suicide does not really want to die. He just does not want to suffer any more. It is therefore up to us, as a society, to place more emphasis on preventing and easing psychological pain.
That is why we must put an end to isolation. To once again cite Ms. Charest:
We must fight suffering at every turn. We must try to understand and encourage all individuals while they are alive.
In Quebec, the suicide rate is 14 per 100,000. In my riding of Montérégie, the rate is below average at 12.7 per 100,000. These statistics are estimates from 2008-09. Although Montérégie falls below the Quebec average, there were still 165 suicides in 2009. That is a huge number because these deaths were preventable. When 165 people commit suicide, 165 families and thousands of friends and loved ones are affected. In Quebec, three people commit suicide every day. That is too many—far too many.
What I find the most striking is the difference between men and women. Men are far more likely to commit suicide, particularly those between the ages of 35 to 49, an age group whose suicide rate reached a catastrophic level of 33.9 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
Here is another finding that will shock many members of the House: the age group that is most affected, among both men and women, is 35- to 49-year-olds followed by 50- to 64-year-olds. People who are in the prime of their lives are committing suicide.
There are also other groups at high risk. For example, the suicide rate among aboriginal people is five times higher than the Canadian average. Young people living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods are four times more likely to commit suicide than those living in wealthier areas.
Therefore, it is a public health issue. These deaths can be prevented. We must fund, support and coordinate a range of effective initiatives to prevent suicide. We must systematically evaluate initiatives and gaps in services across Canada. We must promote dialogue, research and the sharing of knowledge and skills among governments and stakeholders. Lastly, we must monitor trends and develop national guidelines in order to improve practices and intervention.
I support the bill introduced by the member for Kitchener—Conestoga. I support it because the evidence shows that information and sharing best practices effectively prevent suicide. This is very evident in Quebec. After adopting a national suicide prevention strategy, the suicide rate has dropped over the past 10 years and the results among the very young are quite impressive.
I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of this bill. I have always said that lives are saved in hospital emergency rooms. However, with this bill, we have a unique opportunity to help save lives.
Earlier, I quoted the president of the Ordre des psychologues du Québec, who said that we must fight suffering at every turn. An organization on the South Shore, Carrefour le Moutier, which serves part of my riding, is doing just that. Its work is amazing. Its office is located in Longueuil, but it works in the greater Longueuil community.
Carrefour le Moutier's initiative is called “Sentinelles”. This program trains people to recognize the signs of suffering and distress in those closest to them, and thus makes it possible for them to intervene. The main objective is to have these sentinels recognize the signs well before the person has thoughts of suicide. In my opinion, this is an example of a best practice that could be implemented throughout Quebec and Canada.
Carrefour le Moutier also provides a six-hours training to those who ask for it. The agency is proactive and trains the sentinels in at-risk settings such as schools, cégeps, universities and various workplaces. The agency also receives requests from some employers to train their employees on better prevention.
Sentinels are trained in the following three things: first, recognizing the signs of suffering and distress; second, using judgment to determine if the signs are dangerous or a precursor to something; and third, taking action or simply listening, or referring the higher-risk cases to professionals. I would like to take this opportunity in the House to commend Carrefour le Moutier on its initiative and its good work.
For years, the NDP has been calling on the government to develop a national suicide prevention strategy. It is encouraging to see the Conservative government introduce a bill on the serious national problem of suicide. It is time for us to roll up our sleeves and work together, starting here in the House, across party lines. Collaboration among the federal, provincial and territorial governments and agencies across the country will allow us to address the issue of suicide head-on, to the benefit of the people who sent us here. We care about every individual and suicide is not an option.