Frederic Lacroix-Couture, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — Quebec will deploy a new national strategy for suicide prevention, two decades after the first action plan.
One of the objectives: to reduce by 2026 the number of deaths by suicide by at least 10%, to bring the province under the bar of 1000 deaths by suicide annually.
To achieve this, the Legault government will inject $65 million to support various actions, announced Friday the Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé. Of this amount, $5 million has already been granted in 2021-2022.
In 2019, 1,128 people died by suicide, the new strategy document titled “Reigniting Hope” reveals.
This represents three suicides per day, underlined Mr. Dubé. “It’s already too much,” he said at a press conference in Montreal.
The suicide rate in Quebec, which was once among the highest in industrialized countries, fell thanks to an initial strategy adopted in 1998.
“Since that time, we have stagnated. For us, it is time to give ourselves new means to ensure that we experience a new spectacular drop,” commented alongside Minister Dubé, Jérôme Gaudreault, President and CEO of the Association québécoise de prevention du suicide (AQPS).
His organization and others have stood together for several years to demand a new impetus for suicide prevention.
Target populations at risk
The update of the Québec strategy includes 15 measures. They revolve around four axes, including the promotion of mental health, the prevention of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, as well as the training and support of professionals and workers.
The government initiative will attempt to better target certain categories of the population most at risk.
“It’s not teenagers who have the highest suicide rates in Quebec, it’s adult men,” said co-chair of the Collective for a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, Lorraine Deschênes.
The distress rate is also higher in certain employment sectors, particularly among first responders and farmers, notes Mr. Gaudreault.
He wants the means to be given so that these communities can develop their own tools adapted to their reality.
“A police officer will not confide in a worker or a psychologist in a CLSC because he does not trust that the psychologist understands his reality, but he will be ready to confide in a peer, someone who has been a police officer and who has been there, ”he argued.
Specific measures are also planned for First Nations and Inuit communities.
No changes with the pandemic
Preliminary data collected by the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ), and published in January, indicated that the number of deaths by suicide remained stable in 2020 compared to the previous year.
The trend would always be the same, according to Mr. Gaudreault, who says he is in constant contact with the INSPQ and the Office of the Chief Coroner of Quebec.
“What we know, there have been no changes, an index of an increase in the number of deaths by suicide for each month of the pandemic,” he mentioned.
However, the health crisis has increased the demand for psychological services in the public network. The national suicide prevention strategy is “complementary” to the government’s mental health policy, unveiled in January, which aims to improve access to care, Dubé said.
“We have succeeded so far, and I say this with great caution, in limiting the waiting lists to the levels they were during the pandemic. That doesn’t mean it’s satisfactory, but given the increase in demand, it’s already an accomplishment,” he said.
To meet the needs, his colleague Minister Delegate for Health and Social Services, Lionel Carmant, is looking into the possibility of having better recourse to professionals from the private sector, in accordance with the principle of universality, indicated Ms. Dube.
This article was produced with the financial support of the Meta Fellowships and The Canadian Press for News.