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Blueprint for a National Suicide Prevention Strategy

Adrian Hill

Reprinted from "Suicide" issue of Visions Journal, 2005, 2 (7), p. 15-16

Many countries have developed national strategies to reduce suicide, often utilizing the expertise of Canadians. Why, then, was Canada so slow in moving forward on its own strategy regarding this most pressing of public health issues?

As a national organization, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) 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 members of our own communities, to take up the challenge. Thousands of hours of work later, the CASP Blueprint was released in October 2004 to all levels of government and to all Canadians. Support and gratitude has confirmed that the effort has been justified.

What is the Blueprint?

The Blueprint is a national suicide prevention strategy for Canada. It is also a policy agenda, a national task list, a tool for identifying best practices, and a roadmap to an integrated solution. It covers suicide prevention, research, education, treatment, crisis intervention and bereavement support. Issues, needed improvements and emerging best practices have been addressed in a practical, achievable and humane manner.

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 lawmakers and governments and to 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.

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. This was accomplished through strat- egizing, planning and follow-up sessions of the CASP board members, along with a group of invited participants.

The participants comprised a talent pool of clinicians, researchers, teachers, program administrators, consumers and survivors. Everyone donated time and expertise. And each one of the participants had experienced personal loss through a suicide death— they have lost parents and children, sisters and brothers, neighbours, friends and patients. As such, we call ourselves “survivors.

2004: Writing, peer review, editing

In 2004 a writing committee, composed of a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a social worker/researcher and a lawyer/survivor, was given responsibility for writing the initial drafts and submitting them for vigorous peer review across Canada. Fourteen formally revised versions saw hundreds of changes and improvements. A project editor pulled the pieces together to create an integrated document. The decision was made to finalize the process and publish the Blueprint, for review by all Canadians and by members of the World Health Organization and the United Nations.

2005: Implementation plan, budget, 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, to the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (of which CASP is a member) and to the Canadian Mental Health Association. We believe that working in partnership with both CAMIMH and CMHA will be essential to the development of a true national suicide prevention strategy and the successful completion of an integrated solution.

The Business and Implementation Plan 20062008, with budget, was delivered to the federal government during CASP’s annual conference in October.

Guiding principles

  1. Suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility

  2. Canadians respect our multicultural and diverse society and accept responsibility to support the dignity of human life

  3. Suicide is an interaction of biological, psychological, social and spiritual factors and can be influenced by societal attitudes and conditions

  4. Strategies must be humane, kindly, effective, caring and should be:

  5. (a) evidence-based

    (b) active and informed

    (c) respectful of community and culture-based knowledge

    (d) inclusive of research, surveillance, evaluation and reporting

    (e) reflective of evolving knowledge and practices

  6. Many suicides are preventable by knowledgeable, caring, compassionate and committed communities

Blueprint Goals

A. Awareness and Understanding

  • Promote awareness in every part of Canada

  • Develop broad-based support for suicide prevention and intervention

  • Develop and implement a strategy to reduce stigma

  • Increase media knowledge regarding suicide

B. Prevention and Intervention

  • Develop, implement and sustain community-based programs that respect diversity and culture

  • Reduce the availability and lethality of suicide methods

  • Increase training for recognition of risk factors and warning signs and for provision of effective intervention

  • Develop and promote effective clinical and professional practice

  • Improve access to and integration of services

  • Prioritize intervention and service delivery for high-risk groups

  • Increase crisis intervention and support

  • Increase services and support for those bereaved by suicide

  • Increase the number of primary prevention activities

C. Knowledge Development and Transfer

  • Improve and expand surveillance systems

  • Promote and support the development of effective evaluation tools

  • Promote and develop suicide-related research

  • Increase opportunities for reporting

D. Funding and Support

  • Increase funding and support for all activities connected with the CASP Blueprint

  • Ensure access to appropriate and adequate health, wellness and recovery services for all Canadians

What next?

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 Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy and to initiate the successful implementation of this CASP Blueprint.

The Blueprint has been favourably received and compares well with the national strategies of England, Australia, Ireland and the US. It is the only national strategy in the world produced entirely by volunteers and without government funding, while still being comprehensive, professional and practical.

 
About the Author

Adrian is an officer and director of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP). He practiced law for 30 years, and founded and developed national and provincial programs to help lawyers and judges with addiction and mental health problems—including the first suicide prevention program in the world for legal practitioners. Adrian was the editor and a core author of the CASP Blueprint

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