'Groundbreaking' suicide-prevention plan would devote $1.3M to addressing issue
A city committee approved the plan, created with the help of community groups, on Wednesday, which will send it to council for discussion
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Two years after the city installed barriers on the High Level Bridge, the city is taking steps towards a suicide prevention plan to tackle the issue more broadly.
Government representatives have been working with members of the community for more than a year on the strategy, which was presented to the city's executive committee on Wednesday.
Input was provided by community groups that serve people considered at risk for suicide, including members of the LGBTQ2S community, Indigenous groups, people living with addictions, first responders and middle-aged men.
The plan includes specific activities, timelines and funding requirements that would provide education and awareness around the issue, make sure services are fully accessible and address the needs of high-risk populations.
“It is groundbreaking work for sure,” said Coun. Scott McKeen, who added that the bridge barriers installed in 2016 sparked a much-needed conversation about suicide in the city.
“I think everybody involved in the discussions knew that the barriers weren’t the full answer. The full answer was to look much deeper into causes and conditions in the city that were leading to some startling numbers of people taking their own lives.”
According to the latest numbers from Alberta Health Services, 214 people died by suicide in Edmonton in 2015. That's double the number that died from motor vehicle collisions.
For Nadeen LaBoucane, a first responder who tried to take her own life in 2016, this plan is a “gamechanger”.
“To be able to come together with all the different stakeholders was imperative because there are so many high-risk categories and for them to collaborate together is going to be huge,” she said.
LaBoucane was part of the 'lived experience team' that provided input and experience for the research.
“There are some things that you can’t unsee and there are some things that you can’t unhear and to do that every single day… my role right now is emergency communications officer and man it’s like everyday, everyday, everyday, it’s in your face. I think that’s a key factor,” she said.
She says currently the city is behind in providing access to some of the programs and services for suicide prevention.
“But I think that’s going to change. I think it’s going to change with the (prevention) strategy and I think it’s headed in a great direction,” she said.
LaBoucane was one of the many stakeholders at the committee to express their approval of the new plan.
The city has formed a new community-based team that includes members of the City of Edmonton, Alberta Health Services, the Government of Alberta, Edmonton Police Service, Edmonton Youth Council and other post-secondary institutions and community organizations.
The team is responsible for executing the suicide prevention strategy and for delivering data on the number of deaths related to suicide, which McKeen hopes comes faster.
“I know some of the data has been hard to come by or it comes three years later,” he said. “I hope we have annual reports on it. I hope the data comes a little quicker.”
The implementation plan includes funding of $1.3 million dollars over a period of three years.
Funding for this plan is included in the spring 2018 Supplemental Operating Budget Adjustment for council's consideration.
The next step is for city council to approve the plan.