The Case for a National Strategy and Nationwide Hotline

Suicide is a major public health issue in Canada and despite the alarming suicide rate, Canada has remained one of the few industrialized countries that does not not have a national suicide prevention strategy.

On May 8th, 2019, the House of Commons unanimously adopted Charlie Angus’s private member motion, M-174, to establish a National Suicide Prevention Action Plan. This is a positive step in the right direction for Canada and Suicide Prevention and we applaud our Parliament for passing this important bill! 

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) also supports and commends the December 2020 unanimously approved motion by the House of Commons to establish a 3-digit suicide prevention hotline. This dedicated line would assist in increasing access to crisis support, where and when it’s needed. As details are still emerging around implementation, we are hopeful the hotline comes into being as part of an integrated, comprehensive, and funded mental health strategy.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention’s Blueprint

In 2009, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP), published its’ second edition of a national suicide prevention strategy entitled “The Blueprint”

This document has been used across Canada to establish provincial suicide prevention frameworks, and recently, the federal framework. It has received international recognition by other countries such as the U.S.A, U.K., Australia, New Zealand and many other European and Asian countries.

The Blueprint is also a policy agenda, a national task list and tool for identifying best practices, and a roadmap to an integrated solution. It covers every aspect of national concerns respecting suicide prevention, research, education, treatment, crisis intervention and bereavement support. As researchers, authors and suicide prevention leaders, CASP has tried to address issues, needed improvements and emerging best practices in a practical, achievable and humane manner. Through the Blueprint, CASP offers our leadership and expertise to motivate and assist our governments at all levels in fulfilling their own leadership roles.

Guiding Principles of the Blueprint

To unite all communities, governments, organizations and resources across Canada with CASP and our stakeholders, in order to work effectively together to prevent death by suicide and to assist, educate and comfort those who have been impacted by suicide-related thoughts and behaviours.

  1. Suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility.
  2. Canadians respect our multicultural and diverse society and accept responsibility to support the dignity of human life.
  3. Suicide is an interaction of biological, psychological, social and spiritual factors and can be influenced by societal attitudes and conditions.
  4. Strategies must be humane, kindly, effective, caring and should be:
    • Evidence-based.
    • Active and informed.
    • Respectful of community and culture-based knowledge.
    • Inclusive of research, surveillance, evaluation and reporting.
    • Reflective of evolving knowledge and practices.
  5. Many suicides are preventable by the assistance of knowledgeable, caring,  compassionate and committed communities.

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. 

An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention

In December 2012, the Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention became law. This framework is not a national strategy nor does it replace existing strategies or frameworks implemented by provinces, territories, communities or Indigenous communities or organizations. The Framework sets out the Government of Canada’s strategic objectives, guiding principles and commitments in suicide prevention. It focuses on better connections among people, information and resources as well as research and innovation in order to raise awareness, reduce stigma and prevent suicide.

As mandated by the Framework, the Government of Canada will report to Canadians by December 2016 and every two years thereafter on its progress and activities.