It’s hopeful to see that Quebec wants to talk about suicide more publicly. But it's equally disappointing when you look under the hood of the province’s suicide prevention campaign and see that there isn’t much there.
The theme of Quebec’s Suicide Prevention Week Feb. 6-11 is “prevention is better than death,” with the province encouraging more people to speak openly about suicide and mental health, despite the “taboos, fears or discomfort that it might generate.”
But when the Low Down reached out to the region’s health authority, Centre intégré de santé et des services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO), for statistics on suicides in the Hills since the pandemic, we immediately hit a bureaucratic wall.
CISSSO informed this newspaper that the request would have to go through access to information, and the information wouldn’t be available, if at all, until late February, after suicide prevention week ends in the province.
If the province was truly serious about removing the taboos and fears that hold healthy discourse around this topic hostage, it should make suicide statistics readily available for journalists who want to write about it.
And now we are left to wonder how big the problem is, and by the time we get the answer – if we ever do – the topic around suicides and mental health will have already fizzled down, with politicians in Quebec City moving on to their next lip-service project.
Quebec did package its suicide prevention campaign with statistics about suicide, but they are entirely irrelevant in 2023. The stats date back to 2016 and show that three Quebecers take their lives every day. But that was 2016 before the pandemic changed the world. Since then, depression and anxiety rates among Canadians have skyrocketed, with Stats Canada reporting in 2021 that 23 per cent of Canadians were dealing with anxiety, depression, or both since the onset of the pandemic. It’s integral for the public to know the scope of the problem before delving into the controversial debate.
It’s almost insulting to families like the Youngs in Wakefield, who courageously told the tragic story of their brother and son Steve, who died by suicide in mid-January.
If this family is willing to go through the heartache of telling this newspaper an honest but tragic story of a loved one, then it shouldn’t be too difficult for the province to release these critical figures in a timely fashion.
If you really want to talk about suicide, then let’s talk about it in real terms with the scope of the problem as the focus. But without these numbers, it’s just more government red tape getting in the way of potentially saving someone’s life.