In this mental health focus – we thoughtfully consider suicide prevention – a complex issue for the Canadian Government
Health Canada is a Canadian federal institution that is responsible for “helping Canadians maintain and improve their health.” (1) It hopes to ensure this by providing high-quality and accessible healthcare for all Canadians. This institution is part of the health portfolio which also includes another institute: The Public Health Agency of Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada is an institute that aims to “empower Canadians to improve their health”(2). The organisation aims to do this by “promoting good physical and mental health, and providing information to support informed decision making”(3). This article will be focusing on mental health, with a specific focus on how these two organisations deal with the complex issue of suicide prevention within Canada.
Health Canada and The Public Health Agency of Canada aim to do this by helping implement the Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, a series of “strategic objectives, guiding principles and commitments in suicide prevention”(3) which are set by the Government of Canada. This framework is informed the World Health Organisations (WHO) “Preventing Suicide: a Global Imperative”.(3)
The Public Health Agency of Canada’s approach to suicide prevention draws on multi-disciplinary knowledge to help prevent suicides. These areas include: “health sciences (such as medicine, nursing, psychiatry and epidemiology), sociology, psychology, criminology, education and economics”.(4)These widespread fields of research illustrate that there is a great deal of complexity in preventing suicide in Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada then utilise this research in an attempt to achieve three strategic goals:
Reduce stigma and raise public awareness
• Provide guidelines to improve public awareness and knowledge of suicide.
Connect Canadians, information and resources
• Disseminate information about suicide and its prevention.
• Make existing statistics about suicide and related risk factors publicly available and promote collaboration and knowledge exchange across domains, sectors, regions and jurisdictions.
Accelerate the use of research and innovation in suicide prevention
• Define best practices for suicide prevention and promote the use of research and evidence-based practices for suicide prevention(5).
From this, it can be inferred that these organisations main role is to turn scientific research from the Public Health Agency of Canada into accessible information for all Canadians in order for them to understand suicide and suicide prevention with a greater clarity.
Health Canada are the more outward-facing organisation of the two as they provide numerous resources regarding suicide prevention based upon the research of the Public Health Agency of Canada. The offer information on the following: helping those at risk, general information on suicide and also offer information about factors that can maximise or minimise suicidal feelings(6).
The Canadian Government also has to focus on providing accessible information to indigenous (First Nations) communities within the country. It is particularly important for them to develop suicide prevention within these communities as Canada has a large First Nations population that are often located in rural or isolated areas meaning that information on suicide prevention (and other medical issues related to physical and mental health) are hard for that populace to access. Suicide is also the leading cause of death for First Nations people up to 44 years of age(7). Therefore, it is critical for the Canadian Government to provide better support for these groups (groups that it has historically neglected to decrease what has been reported to be a suicide epidemic
Overall it is clear that suicide prevention is a key issue for the Canadian Government and both of its health organisations mentioned within this article. There appears to be great effort to reduce the rate of suicide within Canada and to consistently find better ways to understand mental health to continue preventing suicide and reducing the general rate overall. However, for them to improve upon their developing work, they must continue to reach out to isolated First Nations communities and develop further understanding in how to prevent suicide within those specific communities.