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Media Release – Mental Health Advocates Press for Consultations on Suicide Prevention

Ottawa, May 10, 2013 — During a week designated as both Mental Health Week and National Nursing Week, Canadian nurses are joining their alliance partners in the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) to encourage the federal government to urgently initiate consultations on a national framework for suicide prevention.

Bill C-300, the Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act passed on December 14, 2012, includes a requirement for government action within 180 days of parliamentary approval — by June 13, 2013. The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) and CAMIMH want the federal government to press forward with these much-needed consultations to examine how governments, health professionals, agencies and Canadians can collaboratively act on suicide-prevention initiatives nationwide.

“Sadly, Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world — it’s time we understand why and take action to prevent this national tragedy,” said CNA president Barb Mildon, noting that this year’s Mental Health Week activities will focus on youth mental health. “We can only build our national capacity in mental health promotion and suicide prevention if we work together with partners both inside and outside the health-care sector.”

“We are incredibly encouraged by the all-party support for this legislation and federal leadership in this area and hope we can keep the momentum going with a process that engages and coordinates all of the key players before the June deadline,” says Dr. John Higenbottam, CAMIMH co-chair. “Building suicide-prevention capacity, promoting knowledge exchange and informing policy development at all levels of government must continue to be a national priority.”

Both CNA and CAMIMH anticipate that a national framework on suicide prevention will leverage and support the partnerships and commitments that evolved as the Mental Health Commission of Canada developed the Mental Health Strategy for Canada (released in 2012). Governments and organizations at all levels have subsequently worked hard to align their priorities and programs with that strategy, which emphasizes the need for effective actions on suicide prevention. The commission, now halfway through its ten-year mandate, is currently shifting its focus from collecting evidence to developing stronger initiatives aimed at systemic and attitudinal change about mental health issues.

“Putting a national spotlight on suicide prevention will help us generate new evidence, share best practices and innovate in our prevention approaches,” says Mildon. Canada’s registered nurses, she notes, have historically played a key role in the delivery and design of institutional and community-based mental health programs. Nurses have extensive clinical expertise and have demonstrated leadership in providing mental health services to Canadians, including health promotion, illness prevention, early detection, diagnosis, intervention, crisis management, rehabilitation and (especially) recovery. Because nurses can often identify the early signs of mental illness, and the life conditions that contribute to it, they are well-positioned to offer early interventions that can mitigate a deteriorating personal situation.

“Together, we can also begin to address the social and economic determinants that so significantly influence mental health and lead to so many tragic decisions.” says Dave Gallson, CAMIMH co-chair. “CNA and the CAMIMH alliance members strongly believe that the mental health of individuals and communities is best supported through cross-ministerial and intersectoral collaboration between such areas as health, housing, social services, criminal justice, non-profit and private-sector partners.”

CNA and CAMIMH believe a national suicide-prevention framework will consolidate work already underway to strengthen and coordinate existing programs, train front-line staff, target risk populations (e.g., older men, First Nations and Inuit youth, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered youth), give support to families dealing with grief and loss, and improve access to programs that stream individuals to the experts and organizations that can really help.

The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) is the national professional voice of registered nurses in Canada. A federation of 11 provincial and territorial nursing associations and colleges representing nearly 150,000 registered nurses, CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded not-for-profit health system.

Established in 1998, the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) is an alliance of mental health organizations comprised of health care providers and organizations representing persons with mental illness and their families and caregivers. CAMIMH’s mandate is to ensure that mental health is placed on the national agenda so that persons with a lived experience of mental illness and their families receive appropriate access to care and support.

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More information about National Nursing Week can be found at http://www.cna-aiic.ca/en/events/national-nursing-week/

Information on CAMIMH is located at http://camimh.ca/

Information about Mental Health Week activities can be found at the Canadian Mental Health Association website at http://www.cmha.ca

For more information or interview requests, please contact:
Kate Headley, External Communications Coordinator
Canadian Nurses Association
Telephone: 613-237-2159, ext. 561 | 1-800-361-8404
Cell: 613-697-7507
E-mail: [email protected]

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