The B.C. government says it’s investing $2 million to support enhanced care in the health-care system, including in emergency departments, for people who may be suicidal.
B.C.’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions announced the investment Thursday, saying people experiencing mental-health challenges, particularly thoughts of suicide and self-harm, will benefit from improved quality care in treatment settings.
The initiative looks to develop a provincial framework based on established international practices, local clinical knowledge, and advice from people with lived experience, according to the ministry.
Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson says the funding comes as people grapple with the mental-health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, disasters related to extreme weather and the ongoing legacy of residential schools.
“We’re supporting health-care professionals so that they have the tools they need to provide the best possible care for people and reduce suicide deaths,” said Malcolmson.
The BC Coroners Service (BCCS) says it investigated 582 suicide deaths last year, down from 597 in 2020 and 634 in 2019. Data shows Island Health was the only health authority that saw increasing suicide deaths yearly since 2019.
“The changes will bring quality improvement to care settings in all health authorities,” the province said, noting each regional health authority will receive funding to support evidence-based suicide prevention strategies to address gaps in care.
“Suicide care is an area where we can and must improve the support we provide to people at risk of suicide or self-harm,” said Leah Hollins, Vancouver Island Health Authority board chair.
“These investments in mental-health supports will provide our staff with enhanced knowledge and better tools to respond to Island Health clients’ and families’ unique needs for support, treatment and care.”
According to the province, the time after discharge from psychiatric in-patient care is a period of high risk for suicide. It says the investment will ensure care settings throughout B.C. provide follow-up care to reduce deaths.
“Health-care settings like the emergency department offer important opportunities to prevent suicide,” added Jonathan Morris, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association – BC Division.
“CMHA BC is looking forward to continuing our ongoing partnership alongside people with lived experience, health authorities and the province to transform crisis care for the better.”
With files from The Canadian Press