B.C expands suicide prevention programs for Indigenous youth and post-secondary students

The province launched Here2Talk, a mental health counselling and referral service for post-secondary students in April. The service offers confidential, free single-session services by app, phone or online chat, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. || Photo courtesy of B.C. government Flickr.
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The province has allocated $2.3 million to provide supports for young people who are at risk of increased mental health decline during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The First Nation Health Authority (FNHA) will receive $800,000 to deliver expanded suicide prevention and life promotion activities in First Nation communities. An additional $400,000 will support Métis Nation BC to develop Métis specific online mental health support courses, according to a press release from the province. 

Indigenous people have disproportionally high rates of suicide, according to Statistics Canada. Between 2011 and 2016, suicide rates in Indigenous Peoples were three time higher than that of non-Indigenous — suicide rates were highest among youth aged 15–24.

“First Nations youth suicide is a long-standing concern, so more funding for suicide prevention is critical in building on the work the FNHA is already doing in collaboration with our health partners during the pandemic,” said Dr. Nel Wieman, acting deputy chief medical officer for the FNHA.

The remaining $1.3 million will support the Canadian Mental Health Association – BC Division (CMHA-BC) — it will include grants to post-secondary institutions to expand suicide prevention programs.

Half of Canadians have reported worsening mental health since the start of the pandemic and young adults are among the most affected, according to the province.

“It is vital that youth in our communities struggling with suicidal thoughts have access to help when and where they need it. Nobody should have to face mental health challenges alone,” said Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions. 

“Expanding the reach of suicide prevention programs for students and Indigenous youth gets more young people access to the tools, skills and community supports they need to cope in challenging times.”

The grants will help engage students at risk and expand treatment, support and referral programs. Suicide is the leading cause of injury-related death among children and youth in B.C., according to the province.

“This is such a critical phase for post-secondary students across B.C. as they cope with the pandemic, adapt to new and challenging learning environments and manage the regular pressures of transitions and student life,” said Jonny Morris, CEO of CMHA-BC. 

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