CANADA: National Prevention Bill Acknowledges High Rates of Gay Suicides

By Phoebe Moses

Last week, members of parliament (MPs) crossed party lines in support of a sweeping national suicide prevention bill, passing legislation by a vote of 285 to 3 in the House of Commons on Feb. 15.

“At the heart of this bill is a clear call for national leadership, a coordination of the great efforts of many community groups across Canada, suicide prevention groups already doing all they can to bring hope,” Conservative Party MP Harold Albrecht, the bill’s sponsor, told the House of Commons.

The measure will “create a framework for suicide prevention,” Joe Comartin, an MP from the opposition National Democratic Party, said during debate on the bill. “It would recognize suicide as both a mental health and a public health issue.”

“Suicide deaths and attempts cost the Canadian economy over $14.7 billion annually,” Liberal Party MP Hedy Fry told members. “If we are not moved by the human problem here, we should know that the $14.7 billion could go to other parts of health care to help all kinds of problems, including via measures for prevention, promotion, and setting up of community clinics, et cetera.”

A physician, Fry detailed the startling statistics: “The national rate of suicide in Canada is 15 out of 100,000 people,” she noted. “Now, in 2012, it is 73% higher than it was in the 1950s. For every suicide, there are 100 failed attempts.”

“The rate of suicide is higher among men. We know that 23 out of every 100,000 men will attempt suicide as opposed to 6 out of 100,000 women, although women are three to four times more likely to attempt as opposed to actually complete suicide,” she said. “It is the second leading cause of death among Canadian youth aged 10 to 24. In fact, the suicide rate for Canadian youth is the third highest in the industrialized world.”

Fry also pointed out that certain population groups have a higher incidence of suicide. “Those in the armed forces have a three times higher rate of suicide than the general population; gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons have a seven times higher rate of suicide than heterosexual youth,” Fry reported.

“We all know someone whose sense of hope was overcome by emotional pain and despair and consequently ended his or her life by suicide,” offered the bill’s Conservative sponsor, Albrecht. “The big problem is that suicide does not end the pain. It simply transfers it to family and community.”

“We as a Parliament can and must do more to protect this sacred gift of human life,” he added.