Due to its devastating impact on the population, there has been a call, worldwide, to reduce the substantial morbidity and mortality associated with suicide through a range of national strategies. In 1996, the United Nations, in collaboration with a Calgary based group (Richard Ramsey and Brian Tanney), released “Prevention of Suicide - Guidelines for the formulation and implementation of national strategies”, highlighting the importance of having a guiding national strategy on suicide prevention. This document was follow-up by the WHO, who launched a global initiative for suicide prevention in 1999 and 2002, aimed at encouraging all nations to develop and evaluate national policies for suicide prevention. Many countries have heeded these guidelines and thus have developed national strategies (e.g., Finland, Norway, Sweden, Greeland, Denmark, Australia, USA, England, Scotland, Germany, Malaysia, New Zealand, Ireland, etc). Canada, however, remains as one of the few developed nations without a national suicide prevention strategy.
The CASP Blueprint was prepared by members of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention with assistance from other organizations and individuals. Many countries have developed national strategies to reduce suicide, often with the expertise and leadership of Canadian experts. Why was Canada so slow in moving forward on this most pressing of public health issues?
As a national organization, we concluded that Canadians had waited long enough. If our federal, provincial and territorial governments could not work together to create a national strategy, it was our duty as the members of our own communities to take up the challenge. Thousands of hours of work later, the CASP Blueprint was released to all levels of government and to all Canadians in 2007. A 2nd edition was published in 2009. Canada remains one of the few industrialized countries that has yet to follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the United Nations and establish a national suicide prevention strategy.
What is the Blueprint?
The Blueprint is a national suicide prevention strategy for Canada. It is also a policy agenda, a national task list, and tool for identifying best practices, and a roadmap to and integrated solution. As you will see, it covers every aspect of our concerns as a nation respecting suicide prevention, research, education, treatment, crisis intervention and bereavement support. As researchers, authors and suicide prevention leaders, we have tried to address issues, needed improvements, and emerging best practices in a practical, achievable and humane manner. While we accept that any national strategy will require public debate and pan-Canadian input, we have put forward our Blueprint as a starting point for such debate and input, hoping to both challenge law makers and governments and kick start a process that is decades overdue. As members and directors of CASP, we have offered our leadership and expertise to motivate and assist our governments in fulfilling their own leadership roles.
The CASP National Suicide Prevention Strategy: A Three Year Effort
To unite all communities, governments, organizations and resources across Canada with CASP and our stakeholders to work effectively together to prevent death by suicide and to assist, educate and comfort those who have been impacted by suicidal behaviours.
2003 ~ Strategy, Research, Planning Sessions
Themes, expectations, checklists for goals and objectives, a framework for the Blueprint, and a process strategy for writing, review, rewriting and correction, publication and communication were developed in 2003 through strategy, planning and follow-up sessions by the CASP Board members with a group of invited participants.
Together, the group represented a talent pool of clinicians, researchers, teachers, program administrators, consumers and survivors. Everyone donated their time and expertise in what would become the most significant document in the development of a national suicide prevention strategy in Canada ’s history. In spite of our professional and other qualifications, there is not one of us who has been spared a personal loss through a suicide death. We have lost parents and children, sisters and brothers, neighbours, friends and patients.
2004 ~ Writing, Peer review, Editing
In 2004, a writing committee composed of a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a social worker/researcher and a lawyer/addictionologist were given responsibility to write the initial drafts and submit them for vigorous peer review across Canada. Fourteen formal revision versions saw hundreds of changes and improvements. The project editor then took over the task of pulling the pieces together into an integrated document and again vigorous peer review resulted in hundreds of further edits and changes.
While more work could have been done the decision was taken to finalize the process and finish our work and publish our CASP Blueprint, for review by all Canadians and by members of the World Health Organization and the United Nations.
Our Blueprint has been favorably received and compares well with national strategies recently developed in England, Australia, Ireland, and the United States. It is the only national strategy in the world produced entirely by volunteers. It is the only national strategy in the world produced without government funding. Yet, it is as comprehensive, professional and, above all, as practical as any national strategy anywhere, and at any price.
2005 ~ Developing a Business Implementation Plan, Budget and Timeline
In 2005, the CASP board has made presentations to governments, associations, groups and individuals across Canada. A number of citizen presentations were made to the Kirby Commission and to CAMIMH, of which CASP is a member and to the CMHA. We believe that working in concert and partnership with both will be essential to development of a true national suicide prevention strategy and the successful completion of an integrated solution.
What is the next step?
The CASP Business and Implementation Plan 2006-2007-2008 was hand delivered to the Minister of Health with an implementation budget to the Federal Government on October 18, 2005 during the CASP annual conference. To quote the Blueprint, The writers of this Blueprint anticipate cooperation, enthusiasm and funding from all levels of government and from all segments of Canadian society. We expect our federal government to take a leading national role, to apply its own Health Canada ’s Healthy Living Strategy and initiate the successful implementation of this CASP Blueprint for a Canadian National Suicide Prevention Strategy. To date, this has not happened.
As CASP volunteers, we are determined and committed to lobby the Government of Canada to take suicide prevention seriously, formally recognize suicide as a major public health issue and priority and become a full partner in suicide prevention. CASP also continues to work collaboratively with the Mental Health Commission of Canada in promoting suicide prevention and identifying opportunities to link the Blueprint with a mental health strategy.
The following guiding principles were used to guide the development of this blueprint
- Suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility.
- Canadians respect our multicultural and diverse society and accept responsibility to support the dignity of human life.
- Suicide is an interaction of biological, psychological, social and spiritual factors and can be influenced by societal attitudes and conditions.
- Strategies must be humane, kindly, effective, caring and should be:
- Active and informed.
- Respectful of community and culture-based knowledge.
- Inclusive of research, surveillance, evaluation and reporting.
- Reflective of evolving knowledge and practices.
- Many suicides are preventable by 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. With a national commitment and with a will expressed through a national strategy to reduce suicide and its impact, Canadians can move forward together.
2007 – 2010 and the Future
Our Blueprint has become a catalyst for action in nearly every province and territory across Canada, and in Quebec. It has become a model for provincial and community suicide prevention strategies. The provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia have joined Quebec as authors of Strategies of their own. Both British Columbia and Ontario have started work and other provinces are not far behind.
Your CASP Board and our entire membership remains committed to the creation of a national strategy to reduce suicide in all parts of Canada and to provide support for those who are impacted by suicidal behaviours including bereavement support.
Contact CASP to find out how you can help, by making a donation, or becoming a CASP member, or joining a support group in your own community. And, by helping each other, we help ourselves.
“Statistics Canada released, “Suicide Rates: An Overview,” today in their online publication, “Health at a Glance.”
This article presents the latest statistics on suicide, looking primarily at trends and variations by sex, age and marital status. The main source of data is the Canadian Vital Statistics Death Database.
The Canadian Vital Statistics Death Database collects demographic and cause of death information annually from all provincial and territorial vital statistics registries on all deaths in Canada. Suicide data from this source are somewhat under-reported due to the difficult nature of classifying suicide and the time lag in determining this as the cause of death, which may vary from year to year and from one region to another.
Download: Suicide Rates: An Overview