Data from Statistics Canada shows there’s been a rise in the number of suicides over the past two decades in Nova Scotia.
In 2000, there were 75 suicides in Nova Scotia. In 2016, that number had risen to 134 suicides in the province.
Those figures hit close to home for mental-health advocate, Laurel Walker.
“My life was first touched by the issue of mental illness and suicide personally in 2005 and I started sharing my story after I had a hospital stay here locally. I lost one of my friends Emily in 2006,” Walker said.
According to Health Canada, more than 10 people die by suicide on average, every day in Canada.
Seeking out support services for mental health isn’t easy in the public-health realm.
Waitlists can last nearly a year for a first-time appointment, depending on where you live in the province.
“It’s really frustrating because suicide is so preventable and people typically do reach out for help,” Walker said.
According to information from the Department of Health and Wellness website, average adult wait times for community-based mental-health services in Halifax is 112 days.
If you live in Sydney, Cape Breton, the average wait time is 363 days.
The numbers aren’t any more promising for youth mental health.
Accessing services for child and adolescent services at the IWK Health Centre takes an average of 168 days.
The province is expected to update those wait times this fall.
“I think people really struggle around access to services,” said Lisa Lachance, a youth mental-health advocate and executive director of Wisdom2Action.
“So, certainly here in Nova Scotia, there’s been a lot of changes and a lot of investment in child and youth mental health over the past few years but if you look at the Department of Health and Wellness, the wait times are still extraordinary. So, it can take more than a quarter of a year to get your first appointment in the IWK system here in Halifax and so for young people who are really struggling, that’s a long wait.”
Both Lachance and Walker feel a lack of access to services needs to be fixed in order for people to get the help they need.
“The resources aren’t there to teach people how to live their life again, to get a proper diagnosis and to get the services and the coping tools and the help that they need in order to recover,” Walker said.
Where to get help
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.