CASP Strongly Believes Canada Needs A National Suicide Prevention Strategy

Launched in 1985 by a group who saw the need to provide information and resources to communities to reduce the suicide rate and minimize the harmful consequences of suicide-related thoughts and behaviours, CASP is a pan-Canadian organization that provides advocacy, communication and education on suicide prevention and life promotion. 

The first in Canada to draft 1st and 2nd White Papers on Suicide Prevention entitled “The CASP Blueprint for a Canadian National Suicide Prevention Strategy”, our documents provided the foundation for the development of Canada’s national framework for suicide prevention.  Consequently, legislation for suicide prevention put forth by M.P. Charlie Angus’ private member’s motion, M-174, established a 13-point National Action Plan for suicide prevention that was unanimously adopted by Parliament in May 2019.  However, this falls short of being a national strategy.

Captured in CASP’s white papers were a policy agenda, a national task list, a tool for identifying promising and best practices and a roadmap to an integrated solution, covering every aspect of our concern as a nation in respect to suicide prevention, research, education, treatment, crisis intervention and bereavement support. CASP’s blueprint has been used across Canada to establish provincial suicide prevention frameworks and has received international recognition by other countries such as the U.S.A, U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

We believe CASP laid the foundation to challenge, motivate and assist our lawmakers and governments to fulfill their leadership roles by bringing together communities, governments, organizations and resources across Canada to prevent death by suicide and to assist, educate and comfort those who have been impacted by suicide-related behaviours. 

Can we prevent suicide? Experience teaches us that many suicide-related behaviours can be prevented. Canada has a wealth of experience, knowledge and expertise to approach suicide as a public health issue and as a preventable problem. Realistic opportunities exist for saving many lives. With a national commitment to reduce suicide and its impact, Canadians can move forward together. 

As outlined in CASP’s white papers, a national suicide prevention strategy should encompass at minimum:

  • awareness and understanding; 
  • broad-based support for development of community-based suicide prevention, intervention and postvention programs, respecting diversity and culture at local, regional, and provincial/territorial levels;
  • implementation of a strategy to reduce stigma;
  • increased media knowledge regarding safe reporting;
  • reducing the availability and lethality of suicide methods; 
  • increased training for recognition of risk factors, warning signs and at-risk behaviours;
  • development and promotion of effective clinical and professional practice to support clients, families and communities;
  • prioritized prevention, intervention and service delivery for high-risk groups;
  • increased crisis intervention and support to those bereaved by suicide or who have attempted suicide; and
  • promotion & support of the development of effective evaluation tools and suicide-related research.

Today in Canada 10 people will die by suicide; up to 200 others will attempt so.  Suicide is currently ranked as the 9th leading cause of death in this country. To be certain, suicide is a critical public health issue in Canada. We must have the courage to confront the stigma of talking about suicide and the determination to adequately address mental health on both a national and local level. 

Suicide prevention, intervention and bereavement support is our responsibility as a people and as a nation of diverse communities. 

A great deal of work is still to be done. Together we must continue to encourage Canada’s federal government towards national primary prevention efforts.  Together we must continue to applaud initiatives such as establishing a 3-digit suicide prevention hotline that will increase access to crisis support, which was proposed by M.P. Todd Doherty and unanimously accepted by the House of Commons in December 2020. Together we must continue to advocate for life promotion; as an example, by voicing concerns with the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) for those suffering solely from mental disorder and ensuring proper safeguards are in place to protect the most vulnerable. Together we must continue to provide input and education to our political leadership to bring home the issue of mental health care being significantly underfunded across Canada.

Together we must envision a Canada without suicide.

The CASP Blueprint for a Canadian National Suicide Prevention Strategy