New campaign aims to increase mental health resources, reduce youth suicide rates in Canada

Watch above: Right By You PSA

TORONTO – A campaign aimed to reduce youth suicide rates in Canada was launched Thursday.

Launched by the Partners for Mental Health and the former Mental Health Commission Board Chair Michael Kirby, Right By You hopes to “draw attention to the fact that Canada is failing to meet the mental health needs of our children and youth with devastating consequences like youth suicide.”

“We want to rally thousands of people to raise their voices and declare to government that this is an issue that can no longer be ignored and that greater support and funding is necessary in order to prevent tragedies like suicide,” says the campaign website.

The campaign says that by Canadians lending their voice, action can be taken to secure greater funding for children and youth mental health services, treatment and support.

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“There can be tragic consequences when we are unable to provide sufficient mental health services, treatment and support to our children and youth,” said Simon Davidson, chief of the department of psychiatry at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).

“Being on the front lines of this issue, I see the number of children needing help increase year over year.”

Suicide is the leading cause of non-accidental death for young Canadians. Statistics Canada found that 23 per cent of all deaths for youth aged 15 to 19 can be accounted for by suicide.

In 2012, the first-ever national strategy to improve mental health for all Canadians was released by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.  The strategy emphasized recovery from mental illness and urged for more prevention, especially when dealing with young people.

READ MORE: Canadian gov’t inaction on mental health hurts economy, families: report

The Right by You campaign calls for provincial governments to double the number of children receiving mental health services, treatment and support by the end of 2016. The campaign also calls on the Harper government to invest $100 million over four years in a national suicide prevention fund.

A petition in support of the movement can be signed here.

The campaign says better mental health access and resources can be achieved for only $1,000 per child. Meanwhile, they estimate that the economic impact of mental illness in Canada is $51 billion per year.

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According to Partners for Mental Health, every year 762 young Canadians—equivalent to the size of a small high school—die by suicide.

A 2004 study found that almost 90 per cent of people who die by suicide have a mental illness.

The Children’s Mental Health Ontario said the most mental health problems emerge in childhood or adolescence.

Half of all people who suffer from depression, for instance, are first affected before their 20th birthday.

“The current funding and services available are not able to meet the demand and we need governments to act now,” said Davidson. “The lives of many children and youth in Canada depend on it.”

In recent years, suicide among teens has garnered attention and a call for action across Canada.

In April 2013, Rehtaeh Parsons was taken off life support after the Halifax teen hanged herself.

Rehtaeh’s family says the 17-year-old was depressed and became tormented after a digital photograph of her allegedly being sexually assaulted in November 2011 was passed around her school.

Last year, 15-year-old Amanda Todd drew international headlines after she was stalked and cyberbullied. She chronicled her ordeal through a YouTube video. Todd committed suicide shortly after. According to Carol Todd, Amanda’s mother, the teen was treated for severe depression.

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