Talking about suicide prevention

Over the past year, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) has been actively encouraging all 308 members of Parliament to shine a light on suicide prevention by holding a forum for conversation in their communities. 

That is why on September 8th, my colleague Dan Albas and I, MC radio morning host Phil Johnson, and the Okanagan Suicide Awareness Society opened the doors of the Parkinson Recreation Centre and welcomed people in to talk about suicide. 

Many brave people came forward to tell their stories.

Among the tears, and yes, some laughter, there were many comments about how the community needs to do more to help folks with mental health issues.  

In this respect it was good to see such a cross-section of our community present including our school district trustees, local government representatives, as well as those from the Canadian Mental Health Association, Interior Health (IHA), and other individuals who work on the front lines of social services.

Folks need and want to talk about suicide and suicide prevention because not talking about it is not working!

According to the World Health Organization, someone in the world commits suicide every 40 seconds, that means approximately 11 Canadians will end their lives today by suicide.

In BC, approximately 500 people take their own lives every year.

#308Conversations is designed to include Canadians from coast to coast to coast in a national dialogue about suicide prevention.

At the local level, #308Conversations will provide citizens with information on the actions and initiatives taking place in their own communities.

At the federal level, it will bring together community best practices to inform decision making and strategy in tackling the urgent issue of suicide.

The results will be gathered by the MHCC to produce a working community model with tools and solutions that can be shared as a resource for communities across Canada.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada exists as a result of the comprehensive May 2006 Senate report entitled “Out of the Shadows At Last: Transforming Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Services in Canada”. 

Created and funded by our government, the MHCC works to develop a national mental health strategy, share knowledge and best practices for the benefit of Canadians, and undertake public awareness and education in order to combat the hurtful stigma associated with mental illness.

I encourage constituents to go to www.mentalhealthcommission.ca  to access information and resources pertaining to mental health.

I’d also like to acknowledge the efforts of Dr. Harold Albrecht, MP, who championed the Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act.  More information on this initiative is available through the Public Health Agency of Canada website at www.phac-aspc.gc.ca.

Organizing community events is one step in an ongoing process. As one participant noted to me in an e-mail, “Hearing from IH staff, seeing school district trustees attend, citizens touched by this horror, all walking out of that meeting and empowered by the ability to simply communicate openly. It was the most inspiring and moving event I have attended this year.”

I’ll be sharing what we learned with our MLA's and  I also hope to learn about the status of the after-hours mental health community care team that was in place in Kelowna, which is not presently active - an issue raised at our meeting by Christine Walsh, who is the Social Development Coordinator for the Central Okanagan Regional District.

Mainly, we need to keep talking to each other about suicide prevention because there are many of us trying to deal with tough personal issues alone.

Former CO of BC Dragoons, Cliff Jamieson, who many of us know from the Veterans community, recently sent out a tweet that said, “Thank you for taking this on. It's an important topic. Many people who are affected, fight it alone & lose.”

Many thanks again to those who came out to our meeting.  By reaching out, by talking, and by pooling our resources and best practices, we might have a chance of helping those who are struggling.

The key is to see others and their stories as our own - our family members and friends, our neighbours, our society, and our responsibility.  


The Honourable Ron Cannan is the Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country and welcomes your feedback at [email protected].  Information on local announcements and federal government programs can be found at www.cannan.ca

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About the Author

The Honourable Ron Cannan was first elected as Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country in January, 2006. He was subsequently elected in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections. He is a member of the Conservative Caucus.

On September 13th, 2012 Ron was summoned to be a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and will provide advice to the Government as a member of the Priorities and Planning Sub-Committee on Government Administration.

Ron successfully uses his experience and knowledge as a long-time Kelowna City Councillor and regional government representative to be an effective and enthusiastic champion for his riding and his constituents.

His greatest satisfaction comes from helping local organizations and citizens obtain the support they require from Ottawa. 

He is also dedicated to doing what it takes to ensure that the growing and vibrant communities in his riding continue to thrive and prosper.

He is proud of the partnership and cooperation between federal, provincial and municipal governments which have resulted in significant infrastructure projects including upgrades to Highway 97, expansion of the Kelowna International Airport, a new horticulture strategy for fruit growers, obtaining a full service passport office for Kelowna and addressing critical economic issues such as labour skills shortages.

He works closely with the local Chambers of Commerce and once a year arranges meetings for the Chamber with Cabinet Ministers and senior policy staff in Ottawa to move forward important local issues such as crime prevention and labour skills shortages.

He is also an ardent champion for important community initiatives including homelessness, mental health, women’s resources, and support of arts and culture.

On Parliament Hill, Ron has been a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade since 2006 supporting initiatives which will broaden the economic opportunities for local businesses and businesses Canada-wide.

In previous parliamentary sessions Ron has been a member of the Standing Committee for Government Operations and Estimates, Veteran’s Affairs, Human Resources and Social Development, the Scrutiny of Regulations Committee, and the Standing Committee for Fisheries and Oceans.

Ron is also involved in a variety of inter-parliamentary organizations: he is Vice Chair of the Canada-US Inter-Parliamentary Group, and a member of the Canada-Taiwan Friendship group.

As Chair of the Conservative Wine Caucus, Ron works with his colleagues across the country to promote the wine regions of Canada.  Ron tabled Motion 218(formerly Motion 601) which supports direct to consumer purchasing of Canadian wine. His motion became Bill C-311, sponsored by MP Dan Albas, seconded by Ron, which was passed into law on June 28th, 2012.

Prior to entering politics, Ron developed a diverse business background as a small business owner and had several years experience in marketing and sales management working with corporations including Coca-Cola, Costco and Corus Entertainment.

Very active in his community, Ron has been a Director for both the Central Okanagan Regional District and the Central Okanagan Hospital Board. Ron also served on the Okanagan University College Access to Training Advisory Board, the Glenmore Elementary School Parents Advisory Council, and the Kelowna Christian School Fund Raising Committee. He was co-founder of the Okanagan Volunteer Festival. Currently Ron is a member of the Sunrise Rotary Club of Kelowna and, along with his wife Cindy, was the honorary Chair of the 2012 Canadian Cancer Society Daffodil Ball.

Ron lives a family-oriented and active lifestyle with his wife Cindy. He is the proud father of three daughters and grandfather to three grandsons. His hobbies include music and sports.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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