OPSEU calls for timely access in wake of suicides

14 young people have taken their lives in the Sarnia area alone this year.

Toronto (15 Nov. 2010) – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) is asking the province to ensure timely access to mental health and youth services following a series of suicides in Sarnia.

OPSEU has joined community members in requesting changes following statistics showing higher-than-normal suicide deaths in the area this year. Tragically, 14 youths have taken their lives in that community.“We’re drowning,” says Deb Gordon, chair of OPSEU’s child treatment sector. “In the past six months, St. Clair Child and Youth Services have received 34 crisis referrals from youth who had suicidal (thoughts) or who have planned or attempted suicide. That is more crisis referrals than we received in an entire year from March 2009 to April 2010.”

Although the reasons can vary, homophobia and bullying are major contributors to teen suicide.

“I believe there is a direct relationship between the funding crisis (in Ontario) and the crisis with children and youth in this community,” says OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

“There has been no increase to core funding for children and youth mental health services in 14 out of 17 years. What that translates to is a 35% reduction in capacity to be responsive.”

The Ontario government has neglected youth mental illness leaving Ontario families to cope on their own.

One in five children and youth meet the criteria for mental health diagnosis but the majority of children will go untreated.

•The average wait time for youth mental health services in Ontario is five months.
•More than 90% of suicide victims have a diagnosable psychiatric illness.
•Someone in the world commits suicide every 40 seconds, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
•In Canada suicide is the second leading cause of death in the 10 to 24 age group. The Aboriginal youth suicide rate is four to six times higher that of non-natives.
•In Ontario there are about 1,000 reported suicides every year. The Ontario Association for Suicide Prevention believes the real number is much higher.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada’s largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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