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It is long past time for an effective approach to reducing suicides in Manitoba.

November 19th in an article in the Winnipeg Free Press, Dr. James Bolton, medical director of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Crisis Response Centre admitted that "The treatment we have for suicidal people in the health system is abysmal.  There is no suicide specific treatment in Manitoba."

These damning comments came in response to a report "Toward Quality Mental Health Services in Canada" which shows that Manitoba is an outlier with far higher rates of attempted and completed suicides in our province than in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

This is an area where Judy Klassen (MLA for Kewatinook) and I have been very concerned for some time.  In 2007, a man who was suicidal went to a Winnipeg Emergency Room for help.   He was assessed and then sent home with a bus pass.  Soon after, he committed suicide.    In 2008, in response to this tragedy, Kevin Lamoureux and I introduced The Mental Health Bill of Rights - Bill 230, into the Manitoba Legislature.   The NDP did not support the legislation and little changed.

October 24, 2015, Reid Bricker, who was suicidal, was released form the Health Sciences Centre at 3:20 am.   He had attempted suicide twice in the days leading up to this and had twice before in that short period been discharged from Winnipeg hospitals.  His parents were not informed at the time of his discharge, and there was no peer support worker or other person who would stay in touch with him.  He committed suicide and was found months later in the Red River.  Ever since, his mother, Bonnie Bricker, has dedicated herself to pushing for a better approach to mental health in Manitoba.  It is therefore very sad and troubling to hear Dr Bolton's assessment of the current situation.

I asked the Health Minister, in Question Period, on November 22, about the fact that there is not a specific approach to those who are suicidal in Manitoba - that the health system here in Manitoba is abysmal when it comes to addressing suicide.   My question and the Minister's response is in a video at this link and in the text below.

The Minister has been in his post for almost two years.   It is long past time for him to have put in place an effective approach to suicide prevention and for help for those who are suicidal.   He needs to act quickly, because what is there now is not good enough. 

HANSARD

Mental Health Services - Suicide Prevention Treatment

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Health care is important, yet for at least a decade under NDP and PC governments Manitobans who are suicidal and who are going to emergency rooms or crisis centres, but not getting the help they need, end up taking their own lives.
      Three days ago, Dr. James Bolton, medical director of the WRHA Crisis Response Centre, talked of the situation under the Premier's watch, and he said the treatment we have for suicidal people is abysmal. There is no suicide-specific treatment in Manitoba.
      Why does the Premier always make excuses and blame others instead of acting, himself, as a top priority to deliver suicide-specific prevention.?
Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living): Well, Madam Speaker, we know that any suicide, regardless of where it happens in Manitoba, is a tragedy, is a lost life. It is lost hope. It is a lost loved one for that family.
      Yesterday, in the Throne Speech we committed to look at peer support for mental health in emer­gency rooms. It's something that's been looked at in other jurisdictions with some success. We're reviewing proposals when it comes to peer support for mental health in emergency rooms.
      We also have the ASIST program for suicide prevention, which is offered through Klinic for–Klinic with a K–and last week, I was pleased to provide additional support for that suicide intervention program for Youth for Christ on Main Street.

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