Providing young people with the everyday tools and skills to support mental well-being and ensuring that health professionals have clear and accessible mental health practice and treatment guidelines are among the key recommendations of a death review panel into child and youth suicides.
The panel identified three key areas to reduce child and youth suicide deaths and improve public safety:
* Adopt mental well-being strategies as part of social-emotional learning for students;
* Identify and distribute provincial best practice youth mental health guidelines; and
* Expand youth mental health services, including psychiatric services, to non-urban areas through outreach models.
The death review panel, chaired by Michael Egilson, included 19-panel experts with expertise in youth services, child welfare, mental health, addictions, medicine, nursing, public health, Indigenous health, injury prevention, education, income support, law enforcement, and health research. The panel's recommendations are aimed at preventing death in similar circumstances and improving public safety overall.
"Suicide is the leading cause of injury-related death among children and youth in B.C.," Egilson said. "Almost 70% of serious mental health issues emerge before the age of 25. Programs directed at children in schools and best practice guidelines for health-care providers providing diagnosis and services are important in preventing these deaths.
The BC Coroners Service also provided some statistics on youth suicide.
* Each year in B.C., approximately 20 children and youth die by suicide;
* Of the 111 deaths studied during the review, three times more males died by suicide than females;
* This review found more suicide deaths occurred among older adolescents with 86% of the suicides occurring among youth ages 15 to 18 years.
* This review found higher rates of youth suicide for residents of rural health authorities (Interior, Island, and Northern regional health authorities).
* The Interior Health Authority had almost two times the rate of child and youth suicides as compared to the B.C. rate.
Interior Health does have a full-time team based in Merritt out at the Hospital for assessment and treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues. The team also works together with the emergency team at the hospital to respond to possible urgent calls.
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