The actual number of young people who commit suicide may never be known.
According to Statistics Canada figures, of the 3611 suicides recorded for 2007 (the latest year for which statistics are available), 508 involved people between the ages of 10 and 24 although true figures are almost certainly higher. A 2006 report by the Canadian Mental Health Association listed suicide as being the second leading cause of death of Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24 with suicides accounting for 24 per cent of all deaths for 15- to 24-year olds. A 2004 report by the Canadian Institute of Public Health Information has shown that suicide attempts by youths make up 25 per cent of all hospital admissions.
An initiative launched by a new coalition of Ontario youth service groups has been formed to pressure candidates in the upcoming Ontario provincial election to end the ongoing crisis in child and youth mental health. Titled "Taking A Stand," the coalition is organizing political rallies around the province. In one rally recently held in Ottawa, three empty buses were on display to demonstrate the estimated three busloads of children and youths who commit suicide each year.
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According to Bronwyn Loucks of the youth advocacy group New Mentality, "Children and youth are suffering and this is heartbreaking. I have faith that we can do better as a province and that provincial candidates will take a stand to end this crisis in child and youth mental health. We're calling on all candidates, regardless of political persuasion, to take a stand for better mental health for children and youth, or risk being left behind on voting day, October 6th."
New Mentality is just one of the advocacy groups that make up the newly formed Ontario Action Network for Child and Youth Mental Health. Made up of parents, service providers, unions and other social agencies, members of the network have launched the new initiative in Ottawa, the hometown of Premier Dalton McGuinty. Joanne Curran, parent and longtime child and youth mental health advocate has identified what she has referred to as a "capacity gap" between the estimated 25,000 children and adolescents who are identified as needing mental health care and the 15,000 who actually receive help. She added that "the Province can end this capacity gap with an investment of $200 million over the next four years into the community-based agencies that actually deliver most of the services. We'll see in this month's budget if the government will address the fact that funding levels have been utterly stagnant for 17 of the past 19 years." Along with adequate funding, Curran stresses the need for the Ontario government to commit to working in collaboration with service providers and other parters to create a seamless system for providing direct care for children, youths, and vulnerable families.
The coalition also stresses the need for combating the stigma surrounding mental health issues which often prevents at-risk young people and their families from seeking help until it is too late. According to Phyllis Grant-Parker, representing Parents Lifeline East Ontario, "There is no shame to mental illness. The only shame is to allow the lack of services to continue."