Alberta suicide rate up 30%, province looking for answers

EDMONTON – It’s been two months since Kelly Slifka’s life changed forever.

On Oct. 3, her daughter, Kylee Goodine, died by suicide after jumping from the High Level Bridge. She was only 17 years old.

“She said, ‘Goodbye, I love you,’” Slifka said, remembering her last conversation with her daughter.

“I said, ‘Kylee, please…’ Then, she said, ‘Goodbye, I love you. I’m at the bridge.’ Then her phone went dead.”

Kylee’s story is undeniably sad. However, she’s far from alone. Approximately 500 people die by suicide each year in Alberta. However, in 2015, the province saw a staggering increase.

Between the first half of 2014 and the first half of 2015, the number of suicides went up by 30 per cent. The province is on pace to have more than 650 suicides this year.

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READ MORE: Edmonton-area mom demands better mental health care after teen daughter’s suicide

Alberta’s troubled economy and lack of front-line supports are not helping those in distress.

“What the numbers are telling us is that things have changed in Alberta over the last year or so,” said David Grauwiler, the provincial executive director for the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“We really need to be thinking about workplace mental health. We need to be thinking about how people are impacted when their jobs are lost and what kinds of supports need to be there.”

Resources, like crisis lines and counselling, do exist. However, the co-chair of Alberta’s Mental Health Review says the current system is inadequate and needs to be fixed.

READ MORE: Alberta high school students raise funds and awareness for suicide prevention

“Our system is very overstretched,” Calgary MLA and Liberal leader David Swann said. “It’s fragmented. We don’t have the capacity to deal with these issues early.”

“The early signs and symptoms are there. The response is inadequate and fragmented.”

The review will be sent to the current health minister by the end of this month. Sarah Hoffman will be monitoring the report closely.

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“We knew the trend was not positive,” Hoffman said.

“We’re not going to wait until the next budget cycle to get more resources into the hands of community members.”

Still, advocates worry how the trend will progress over the winter.

READ MORE:  Alberta family opens up about their loss as number of teen suicides grows

“I’d say if the numbers are going in that direction it wouldn’t surprise me to see them to continue through the holiday season,” Grauwiler said.

“What’s concerning is we would hope more people would ask for help when they need it.”

Grauwiler will be speaking more about suicide rates, mental health and holiday stress on the Global Edmonton Morning News on Tuesday at 7:10 a.m.

The mental health review is also focusing on how to tackle addictions like fentanyl.

The Distress Centre has a 24-7 Crisis Line. If you are in need of counselling or support resources, call (403) 266-HELP (4357).

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