Senator Patrick Brazeau says he is pushing for a study into male and Indigenous suicide in the Senate as part of what he sees as “a new calling” for himself.
The senator, who pleaded guilty to assaulting a woman in 2015 and received an unconditional discharge later that year, said he doesn’t care about people who question whether he is credible and serious in addressing the issue in light of his past.
He told The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson his suicide attempt the following year gave him a new appreciation for the underlying issues that need to be tackled to help men and Indigenous Canadians battling mental health challenges.
“We as humans, we go through a lot of struggles and men, in particular, I believe because – I’m speaking for myself – I was taught to be strong, to be competitive. I was taught not to show emotion growing up, but then when I started having problems, I felt guilty and I felt ashamed to ask for help,” he said.
“And it’s only after many years of struggling that I did reach out for help and I got the help that I needed and I’m better today.”
Stephenson asked Brazeau about the issue of his credibility.
“People say, ‘Look, he plead guilty to assault, I doubt his credibility, is he serious on this issue,'” Stephenson said.
“How did that play into your decision to get more involved?”
Brazeau responded, saying, “I don’t pay attention to my critics anymore.”
“People can point the finger and ask questions about how real I am but after I tried unsuccessfully two suicide attempts, I don’t question myself anymore. I’m doing this because I care about people. Every lives matter but in particular, First Nations’ lives matter and we have to take care of the most vulnerable citizens in this country.”
Brazeau has been open in recent years about his suicide attempt and recovery, as well as with the difficulties he says he has faced transitioning back into life as a working senator following his reinstatement to that chamber in 2016.
That came after the Senate suspended him in 2013 after he was charged with assault and sexual assault.
Brazeau pleaded guilty to the assault charge as well as to possession of cocaine in September 2015.
The Crown dropped the sexual assault charge against him and the judge overseeing his case granted him an unconditional discharge the following month, meaning he faced no jail time or criminal record despite his guilty plea.
Charges of fraud and breach of trust that had also been laid against Brazeau in connection with the Senate expense scandal were withdrawn in July 2016 and he returned to the upper chamber that fall.
While the senator has spoken publicly since then about what drove him to try to take his own life, he has kept a relatively low profile with regards to his work on the committees and daily functions of the Senate.
He says he plans to continue pushing to get support for a motion he tabled last week, which asks the Senate to task one of its committees with studying suicide among men and Indigenous communities.
According to Statistics Canada, men and boys, as well as Indigenous people, are among those with the highest risks of suicide in the country, with rates three times higher than those of women.
Women, the agency notes, tend to have higher rates of self-harm.
“Men oftentimes are ashamed to ask for help and that’s what needs to change,” Brazeau explained.
“That’s what I’m trying to do with this motion and the government hopefully at some time will support it.”
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.