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Province provides $2 million for suicide-prevention initiative

The money will go toward creating province-wide standards and training to improve the health-care system for people who may be suicidal
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Mental Health Minister Sheila Malcolmson announces funding for an initiative that will create province-wide standards and training to improve care in the health-care system for people who may be suicidal, in a news conference at Royal Jubilee Hospital. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

The province is providing $2 million to help create province-wide standards and training to improve the health-care system for people who may be suicidal.

“Suicide does not discriminate and people from all walks of life can feel suicidal,” Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson said Thursday at Royal Jubilee Hospital. “Many people struggle, many have feelings of distress and despair and thoughts of suicide and self harm.”

The B.C. Coroners Office says 582 suicide deaths were investigated in B.C. in 2021, down from 597 in 2020 and 634 in 2019.

The additional funding will be used to ensure all care settings in the province have access to care-provider training, standardized intake screening as part of updated electronic records, and updated suicide-risk management procedures in keeping with recently released new provincial practice guidelines aimed at reducing suicide deaths.

Research shows discharge from psychiatric inpatient care is a period of high risk for suicide, said Malcolmson.

“That’s why we’re bringing together best practices, screening assessments, and other resources to care settings like emergency departments right here,” she said. “This will ensure better outcomes for people with suicidal thoughts.”

The goal is to improve the quality of care in mental-health and substance-use treatment settings.

Each regional health authority will also receive funding to support evidence-based suicide prevention strategies that address local gaps in care for people who may be suicidal.

Malcolmson says the funding comes as the toxic-drug-overdose crisis, mental-health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters related to extreme weather, and the ongoing legacy of residential schools “have taken a toll on our mental well being.”

ceharnett@timescolonist.com