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Youth Suicide

Honourable senators, today I want to tell you about my daughter’s friend John. John was just like any other kid — a fine, gentle, positive person. He described himself as an optimist. He was completing a bachelor’s degree at Brock University and hoped one day to become a teacher.

Honourable senators, I am sad to say that John recently killed himself.

I can still see his face in front of me — his glasses. He was at my home so many times that I wonder — could I have reached him?

Stories like this are not unique to Canada. I have two daughters, and this is the second time that one of their friends has died by suicide.

In mid-April a Brampton high school experienced its third suicide in less than a year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Canadian youth aged 10 to 24. We have the third-highest rate of youth suicide in the industrialized world. Are we failing our youth?

Honourable senators, youth suicide is not simply a family issue or a community issue. This is a public health issue. I am pleased to say that our government has been diligent in this regard. We have supported the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

In February, the Senate unanimously adopted a motion to establish a national suicide prevention strategy. As well, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights is examining cyberbullying as an issue of child protection. Last October, Bill C-300 was put forward, requesting the government to develop a federal framework on suicide. That bill is currently undergoing study in the Standing Committee on Health in the other place. I look forward to their report.

Suicide can be prevented, and it starts with communication. As senators, you can generate awareness about this issue. Let kids know that it does get better and that there are resources to help them through it. The Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention is just a click away at suicideprevention.ca, where youth can be directed to their nearest crisis centre. There is also the Kids Help Phone.

Honourable senators, our youth need to hear from us. I urge you to remember John and the 300 Canadian youth who die by suicide every year.