Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak in support of this bill by the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga because I think it is a bill that all of us can support.
As my colleague just said, this is something that is non-partisan because suicide touches every community, every life, every family and every school. We know that is true but it is important to note that we can prevent it.
When the member talks about looking at a national strategy, I am pleased that he is talking about building partnerships between the federal, provincial and territorial governments, non-profit societies, groups that understand the issue, as well as between communities, schools and local people. It is an issue that can flood every area in which we can look at. That makes it important and it is something we can sink our teeth into. It means that when we have a suicide prevention strategy, everyone will behind it, as it must if it is going to succeed.
As members know, the leader of the Liberal Party tabled a bill in the House on October 4 that talked about a national suicide prevention strategy. All three parties in this House unanimously supported it. Therefore, we are all on the same page here and that is important to remember. We sit in this House and figuratively shoot bullets at each another, argue, debate and become partisan, but I was moved by the opposition day motion from the hon. leader of the Liberal Party. Everyone here was silent, thoughtful and moved. Some members were choked-up and touched by personal experiences. If there is anything we can all put ourselves behind, it has to be this issue.
As a physician, I like statistical data and I like to talk about research, et cetera. Here are some things that I think we need to know. The national rate of suicide in Canada is 15 out of 100,000 people. Now, in 2012, it is 73% higher than it was in the 1950s. For every suicide, there are 100 failed attempts. The rate of suicide is higher among men. We know that 23 out of every 100,000 men will attempt suicide as opposed to 6 out of 100,000 women, although women are three to four times more likely to attempt as opposed to actually complete suicide. It is the second leading cause of death among Canadian youth aged 10 to 24. In fact, the suicide rate for Canadian youth is the third highest in the industrialized world.
We need to do something about that, not only because of the statistical data or because we all agree about it in this House, but we must think of the wasted human potential when young people commit suicide. This is something we need to look at but I do not want to only focus on youth.
It is interesting to note that the leading cause of death in men between the ages of 25 and 29, and 40 and 44 is suicide. In women, it is between the ages of 30 and 34. Therefore, this is not a youth issue only. We now have evidence showing that among seniors, especially senior women, there is a very high rate of suicide. It is not done in as dramatic a fashion but there are high rates of suicide among senior women.
We know that some populations within Canada have a greater incidence of suicide. For instance, those in the armed forces have a three times higher rate of suicide than the general population. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons have a seven times higher rate of suicide than heterosexual youth. We know that suicide is the leading cause of death in aboriginal males aged 10 to 19. In fact, the suicide rate of first nations is five to seven times higher than that of the non-first nations population. The suicide rate for Inuit youth is among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average. We know that 43% of respondents to a survey that was done in 2008 in Nunavut said that they had thought of suicide within the last week.
As we well know, 90% of suicides have a diagnosed psychiatric illness behind them. Many people who are depressed and contemplating suicide and go undiagnosed are nearly always the successful ones.
We know this reaches out into every home and community across this country. There is no one who has not been touched by it.
Here is a staggering piece of information. Suicide deaths and attempts cost the Canadian economy over $14.7 billion annually. If we are not moved by the human problem here, we should know that the $14.7 billion could go to other parts of health care to help all kinds of problems, including via measures for prevention, promotion, and setting up of community clinics, et cetera.
However, I think suicide prevention in this country is fragmented. Some provinces do it well; some provinces do not. We heard my colleague say that if we want to look at a best practice, we have to look at what Quebec has done. Quebec has had extraordinary results in suicide prevention.
We know that some of the causes of people being pushed into suicide include mental illness and mood disorders. Amongst youth, stress, anxiety, bullying, alcohol and substance abuse are huge causative factors connected to suicide. Others include the loss of a parent or caregiver in early childhood; the loss or breakup of a relationship; poverty; de-culturization and loss of traditions; and physical, sexual and mental abuse. Also, suicidal acts amongst family, friends or in a school community tend to push others who may be on the brink of thinking about it into actually committing suicide.
I just want to say that in any demographic or in any piece of statistical data we look at, this is an issue that we must deal with urgently. It is not something that we can just sit and talk about. If every day 10 Canadians commit suicide, then every day that we waste, every week that we waste, every month that we waste we should think about it. It could be someone we know or someone who is very close.
I think there are elements of a strategy that we need to talk about that are quite clear. We need to look at research. Let us look at the identification of social or other determinants of suicidal behaviour. We know that it is not only about depression and psychoses. Let us look at how we can identify the risks very early, meaning that we have to move out of medical communities and look to school counsellors, who if properly trained might be able to identify a young person very early before they begin actual suicidal ideation.
There may be a very early warning system that we can put into place. However, this will require public education, individual education of counsellors in schools and social workers and people who work in the community, including those who work with children and families. These people need to have some kind of training. Even though I am a family physician, I also need to say that family physicians need to have some training in early diagnosis and early identification of suicide.
We need to talk about how this moves not just from a medical point of view but also out into the community as part of community support programs and knowledge. We also need to have an open dialogue, because one of the reasons no one talks about suicide is the stigma. Everyone is ashamed to talk about it.
What is happening, as we discussed on the day of the opposition motion, is that it has actually triggered the following response from people across the country. People began to say, “Well, if so and so, an MP, has someone they know who committed suicide or thought of suicide or were depressed or if they have a family member with a problem, this is actually something I can feel comfortable talking about. I do not need to be ashamed.”
It is the shame and the hidden component of this that causes the problem and prevents us from picking up the signs early. Therefore, we need to talk about crisis intervention, a hot line, and early responders. We need to talk about how we build community support for all of these kinds of things. Of course we need to talk about bereavement support in schools and how we can talk about it openly within a school situation.
We know that we do not have anything on suicide prevention in the national mental health strategy. We know that the Canadian Mental Health Commission will come with its report in May or early June. I know it is going to contain something about suicide prevention.
As I said, we know that Quebec has had 50% fewer suicides in the last 10 years. This is because they have consolidated and coordinated their services so they are all moving together in the same direction, doing the same things. They have community and street mental health workers. They have promotional programs about mental illness and wellness in schools. They have police who are trained to identify people on the streets who need help.
Those are important things where we can take a page out of their book. We do not have to recreate and reinvent wheels around here when we have some very good best practices. As I said, Quebec is one of them, but there are other places with best practices too.
We should also think about what the feds can do. Let us set up, if anything, a clearing house of best practices. Look at what works, look at the evidence and let us do something about this before it is too late. I urge all members to please support the bill.