Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to discuss suicide prevention in the context of the debate on Motion No. 174 moved by my colleague, the member for Timmins—James Bay.
Suicide is a complex issue that affects many Canadians, as well as their families and communities. That is why suicide prevention and improving Canadians' mental health are a priority for our government. I would actually like to take this opportunity to point out that this week is National Suicide Prevention Week in Quebec. This is Quebec's 29th National Suicide Prevention Week, and this year's theme is “Talking About Suicide Saves Lives”. That is what we are doing here today.
I am honoured to speak today about a few initiatives and broader government investments regarding suicide prevention and mental health.
The Government of Canada is working with partners to foster and protect the health of Canadians. To that end, we support programs that improve mental health and well-being and help prevent suicide.
Mental health support is key to suicide prevention. In 2017, our government signed an agreement with the provinces and territories to provide funding for mental health over the next 10 years. This funding includes $5 billion in new targeted investments to help the provinces and territories improve access to mental health and addiction services.
Some provinces and territories have included suicide prevention activities in their agreements. For example, the Northwest Territories are developing a suicide prevention and crisis support network to support suicide prevention activities in communities and provide expert and timely intervention in times of crisis. Saskatchewan will support community-developed strategies to prevent suicide and build clinical capacity to assess and treat mental health concerns in children and youth.
The federal government bases its comprehensive suicide prevention efforts on the 2016 federal framework for suicide prevention, which harmonizes federal suicide prevention activities and complements the important work carried out by our partners. The primary objectives of the federal government framework are to reduce stigma and raise public awareness of suicide prevention; connect Canadians, information and resources; and accelerate the use of research and innovation in suicide prevention.
A nearly $3-million investment in this framework to support the Canadian suicide prevention service will give people across the country 24-hour access to crisis support.
Suicide has been a concern in indigenous communities. The suicide rates are higher than average in some first nations communities and in all Inuit regions.
The parts of the national suicide prevention action plan specific to indigenous peoples are in line with the frameworks guiding our government's approach to mental wellness, such as the first nations mental wellness continuum framework and the national Inuit suicide prevention strategy.
These frameworks speak to the need for a transformative and whole-of-government approach to supporting mental wellness and promoting reconciliation and healing. They present a comprehensive approach to mental wellness services by putting the emphasis on cultural continuity, self-determination by the community, and social determinants of health specific to indigenous peoples.
Every year, our government contributes $350 million in funding for mental wellness community services in first nations and Inuit communities.
This funding is used to support mental health and suicide prevention programs, substance use prevention and treatment, mental wellness teams, the Hope for Wellness Help Line, and the Indian residential schools resolution health support program.
We also know that suicide affects several other populations receiving federal government help, including members of the Canadian Armed Forces and veterans.
That is why we released the CAF-VAC joint suicide prevention strategy in 2017. The strategy is a comprehensive approach to preventing suicide among our military members and veterans.
This strategy is consistent with the approach outlined in the federal framework for suicide prevention, which states that suicide is a serious public health issue. It outlines an approach that seeks to reduce risks, build resilience, and prevent suicide among military members and veterans, as detailed in two action plans developed by the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada.
Some of the actions in the Veterans Affairs Canada action plan include a new emergency fund that provides financial support to veterans, their families or their survivors whose well-being is at risk; sustained expansion of the network of operational stress injury clinics; mental health first aid training for veterans; a veteran family program; an education and training benefit; and online support for veteran families and caregivers.
As part of this strategy, the Canadian Armed Forces partnered with the Canadian Psychiatric Association and released the Clinician Handbook on Suicide Prevention. This evidence-based handbook equips health care providers to screen, assess and manage patients at risk for suicide. The Canadian Armed Forces also continue to expand their telemental health resources to reduce wait times and geographic obstacles that would limit access to care.
Our government supports and also establishes partnerships to conduct research on mental health and suicide prevention. From 2013-14 to 2017-18, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or CIHR, invested more than $15 million in suicide research.
To address one of the main challenges to suicide prevention, the rapid access to mental health services, CIHR, in partnership with the Graham Boeckh Foundation, supports ACCESS Open Minds. This national initiative is transforming the way in which youth aged 11 to 25 access mental health services by developing and testing evidence-based mental health solutions. This initiative guarantees quick access to mental health assessment services and to appropriate services matching specific needs.
The ACCESS Open Minds network currently has 14 sites in six provinces and one territory. Each site serves the local needs of its respective community. This initiative represents a total investment of $25 million by the federal government and the foundation.
What is more, mental health and suicide constitute one of the priority areas in the government's pathways to health equity for aboriginal peoples initiative. The purpose of this initiative is to promote health equity for aboriginal peoples and apply knowledge to improve health. The research projects funded under this initiative will help develop an evidence base to guide the design, implementation and delivery of programs and policies to prevent suicide and promote the health and well-being of indigenous people.
We are also interested in approaches that decrease the impact of suicide in communities across the country. The Mental Health Commission of Canada launched the roots of hope project, which draws on community expertise to implement relevant, evidence-based suicide prevention interventions in Canadian communities. Experimental research projects are under way in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, and the opening of another site in Alberta has been confirmed.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada also worked with partners to design suicide prevention training for health care professionals and to develop resources for people who have attempted suicided and those who have lost a loved one to suicide.
Going forward, our government will keep working toward suicide prevention together with service providers, our partners, and those with lived experience, including national indigenous organizations and indigenous communities in general.
We know that by working together and collaborating with our partners, we can build a country in which suicide is prevented and hope and resilience become a reality for us all.