Suicide prevention is everybody’s business.
This month Canada had the privilege of hosting the 28 World Congress of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP2015). Held in Montreal at L’Universite du Quebec a Montreal (UQAM), the IASP2015 was a huge success with over 800 participants from over 50 countries and an impressive 590 presentations and workshops.
Suicide is a national and global health priority. The IASP2015 brings together researchers, clinicians, and people with lived experienced in the spirit of collaboration to share in best practices and lessons learned, research, and the advancement in suicide prevention programs.
Hosting the congress in Canada provides the opportunity to show case the incredible leadership and work being done here in Canada on suicide prevention. From the ASSIST Training Program which was developed by Living Works in Alberta and now used worldwide to the innovative programs being developed to support the unique and diverse needs of Canadian communities to the research being carried out – Canada has played and will continue to play a role in suicide prevention.
The last time a world congress for the International Association for Suicide Prevention (held bi-annually around the world) was hosted by Canada was in 1993. CASP President, Renee Ouimet, remembers attending that congress and appreciates the advancements made in suicide prevention.
“Suicide is complex. I appreciated seeing a shift in focus to include research and preventative measures which take into consideration social determinants and social economic factors beyond mental illness, economic and suicide rates.”~ Renee Ouimet, CASP President.
While New Discoveries and Technology in Suicide Prevention may have been the official theme of this congress, we were pleased to see three main themes emerge over the course of the week:
• Postvention and support of those bereaved by suicide; and
• Consultation and partnership with people with lived experience.
Technology and Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Postvention
The use of the Internet, apps, and social media to disseminate effective interventions and preventative campaigns may very well be one of the most promising new mediums to come along in the past few decades. It also provides new avenues not only for researchers to learn but to collaborate with peers around the world. On the flip side, it could also contribute to contagion and suicide ideation.
We were pleased to see so many of our peers explore the possibilities of using technology and share their findings and best practices with respect to the strategic, ethical, practical, technical, legal, and operational factors in the deployment of campaigns, services, and research.
“We feel hopeful for technology to be used as a protective factor. To let people know how to keep themselves safe and hopeful.” Renee Ouimet, CASP President.
CASP has members who are part of the !ASP Special Interest Group on Suicide Bereavement and Postvention. Chaired by Sally Spencer, we were committed to, and succeeded in, developing a comprehensive stream for the !ASP World Congress in Montreal. We are a dedicated group of researchers, clinicians and those bereaved by suicide, and CASP will continue to participate in the collaboration on priorities set by the Special Interest Group on Suicide Bereavement and Postvention.
We gave opening remarks at the healing ceremony, and all attendees were given a CASP survivor pin to signify our memory of those who have died by suicide. We also presented at a symposium comparing National Models for postvention alongside representatives from the US, Ireland and Australia.
We continue to nurture relationships with our international colleagues to learn and share the great work being done across the world to support survivors of suicide loss and the professionals who support them.
We were pleased and encouraged by the inclusion of those with lived experience not only as presenters but also as partners in suicide prevention. We were fortunate to hear Kevin Hines and Nie Newling share their stories and were inspired by their determination to help others find ways to live well. We gained new insight and knowledge from the President and CEO of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco and CEO of Carson J Spencer Foundation in their presentation on Attempt Survivors as Allies in Suicide Prevention and The Way Forward program, a pathway to hope, recovery and wellness within insights from those with lived experience.
“It is clear that if we are to meet the challenge put forward by the World Health Organization (WHO) of reducing suicide by 10% before 2020 that the voices of those with lived experience need to be included.”~ Tana Nash, CASP Executive Director.
Suicide is a global issue, and the IASP2015 provided an incredible opportunity to learn from one another. There are some truly innovative and successful programs being implemented around the world and we were able to share in their insights and best practices so we can all benefit. It was a true collaborative experience.
We also appreciated the sessions on protective factors like hope, family, and job security, and the sessions that focused on the unique needs of specific demographics like the elderly, male depression, aboriginal needs, and adolescents. The researchers informed us on new studies and results, which validate what we suspect and see happening in the communities.
Our key takeaway is that Canada needs to invest in suicide prevention and in a National Suicide Prevention Strategy. Canada has fallen behind and remains one of the few industrialized countries not to follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the United Nations to establish a national suicide prevention strategy.
We took it upon ourselves to create a national strategy called the CASP Blueprint. It was released to all levels of the government in 2007 and a second edition was updated in 2009. We will continue to lobby the Canadian government for a National Suicide Prevention Strategy.
As leaders in Canada, in suicide prevention, intervention and postvention, we want to continue to collaborate with Public Health Agency of Canada, Mental Health Commission of Canada, government agencies and organizations, and the private sector to bring the national strategy to fruition.”~ Renee Ouimet, CASP President