Quebec investing $65 million to reduce suicides

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Quebec will roll out a new province-wide strategy for suicide prevention, two decades after the first action plan.

One of the goals is to reduce the number of deaths by suicide by at least 10 per cent by 2026, bringing the province below the 1,000 mark in annual suicide deaths.

To achieve this goal, the Legault government will inject $65 million to support various actions, Health and Social Services Minister Christian Dubé announced Friday. Of this amount, $5 million has already been granted in 2021-2022.

In 2019, 1,128 people died by suicide, according to the document of the new strategy entitled "Rekindling Hope."

That's three suicides a day, Dubé said, and "it's already too many," he told a news conference in Montreal.

Quebec's suicide rate, once among the highest in the industrialized world, fell as a result of an initial strategy adopted in 1998.

"Since then, we have been stagnating. For us, it is time to give ourselves new means to ensure that we experience another spectacular decline," said Jérôme Gaudreault, president and CEO of the Association québécoise de prévention du suicide (AQPS), alongside Minister Dubé.

His organization and others have been working together for several years to call for a new impetus in suicide prevention.

TARGETING AT-RISK POPULATIONS

The updated Quebec strategy includes 15 measures structured around four areas, including mental health promotion, prevention of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, and training and support for professionals and caregivers.

The government initiative will attempt to better target certain categories of the population that are more at risk.

"It's not teenagers who have the highest suicide rates in Quebec; it's adult men," said Lorraine Deschênes, co-chair of the Collectif pour une stratégie nationale en prévention du suicide.

"The rate of distress is also higher in certain employment sectors, particularly among first responders and farmers," said Gaudreault.

He hopes that the means will be given so that these sectors can develop their own tools adapted to their reality.

"A police officer will not confide in a counsellor or a psychologist in a CLSC because he does not trust the psychologist to understand his reality, but he will be ready to confide in a peer, someone who has been a police officer and who has been through it," he said.

Special measures are also planned for First Nations and Inuit communities.

NO CHANGE WITH PANDEMIC

Preliminary data collected by the Quebec's public health institute, the INSPQ, published in January, indicated that the number of deaths by suicide remained stable in 2020 compared to the previous year.

The trend would still be the same, according to Gaudreault, who said he is in constant contact with the INSPQ and the Office of the Chief Coroner of Quebec.

"As far as we know, there have been no changes, no increase in the number of deaths by suicide for each month of the pandemic," he said.

However, the health crisis has increased the demand for psychological services in the public system. The suicide prevention strategy is "complementary" to the government's mental health policy, unveiled in January, which aims to improve access to care, Dubé said.

"We've been very successful so far, and I say this very cautiously, in limiting waiting lists to the levels they were during the pandemic. That doesn't mean it's satisfactory, but given the increase in demand, it's already an accomplishment," he said.

To meet the needs, his fellow Junior Minister of Health and Social Services, Lionel Carmant, is looking into the possibility of having greater recourse to private sector professionals, in keeping with the principle of universality, Dubé said.

LIST OF MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES IN QUEBEC

If ever you need help, don't hesitate to reach out to:

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 13, 2022. 

This article was produced with the financial support of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowships.

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