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Monday, 16 January 2012

Suicide action in Canada, and linked to a performance review for Minister Aglukkaq

Let us begin with congratulations to Leona Aglukkaq on reaching the pinnacle of her third anniversary in October 2011 as Minister of Health.  There have only been four previous to meet this mark in the past 40- years.  The Honourable Minister joins the elite club with the likes of Mark Lalonde,  Monique Begin,  Jake Epp and Alan Rock, impressive company to stand with. 

She was last week in the roaring metropolis of Happy Valley/Goose Bay announcing funding for the gathering of best evidence on suicide prevention.  Granted it is only a total of $300K. 

The other question might be given a resource in the Centre for Suicide Prevention  why this existing infrastructure was not bolstered to continue its past work in the field ? (previously SIEC the Suicide Information and Education Centre which lost federal funding after rise of the federal conservatives to power,  and remains as an Alberta provincial resource Centre for Suicide Prevention  and a hidden treasure of national scope.

 Efforts to prevent and contain suicide have seen funding come and go quickly.  Sustained and continuous efforts have not yielded wide swings in reducing mortality from suicide, though no doubt have had a positive impact on mental health manifestations and responding to suicidal behaviour.  The proposed literature reviews should provide a valuable update to the very active works that previously existed.  

The graphic actually demonstrates the long term trend, although there are some notable problems with the data.   PHAC and Health Canada are now 6 years delayed in posting mortality data for public use.   Quebec has for many years not reported suicide rates to the federal mortality system.    The good news is that suicide rates in both genders have trended downwards over the past few decades.  If the data was extended back we would see climbs after WWII to the 70’s followed by a flattening before the slow and steady decrease.    More was discussed DrPHealth suicide and the stock market crash

There is a good news story here in the suicide rate reduction and good news in some renewed funding for research/knowledge synthesis in suicide prevention.  The unspoken questions that might be asked are:  

·         Why a mere $300K for what has been consistently a top 10 killer in Canada and there isn’t much other research or programming going on?
·         What will be done with the best evidence knowledge synthesis papers?
·         Is there a longer term pan-Canadian commitment to finally invest adequately in programming and research to substantively affect suicide rates?
·         What exactly has the Minister done during her leadership role? 

Perhaps the last question is a bit unfair, but take a scan of Ministry press releases for the past year News releases from Ministry of Health.  A couple of subjective observations:
Most of the releases relate to non-controversial or niche issues
Few related to substantive investments in efforts to improve the health of the population. 

Perhaps the secret to preventing political suicide is to avoid negative publicity, in this respect Minister Aglukkaq may be a master and key to her longevity.  Does she deserve to stand amid the elite club that she recently joined?  What do you think?  Time for some pointed comments to be posted on this blog.

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