Westshore and Sooke communities affected by suicide loss are working together to design and implement a comprehensive community action plan focused on mental health and suicide prevention.
A diverse group of municipal, provincial, community-sector, first responder, education, elected and railway infrastructure leaders have been meeting on a regular basis to plan, coordinate, and mobilize resources to better respond to crisis and suicide. Capitalizing on existing structures and leadership in the Westshore and Sooke region like the Healthy Schools, Healthy People Strategy, the group is focused on implementing a multi-level suicide prevention plan. The group is applying evidence-based strategies tailored to the local context and aligned with the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Roots of Hope Five Pillar Model which focuses on mental health supports, suicide prevention training, raising public awareness, reducing access to means of suicide and evaluation.
“For every person lost to suicide, many more experience thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts. Suicide is a complex issue, and we know that communities have a critical role to play in its prevention by providing support and a safety net to people who are experiencing a suicidal crisis. Suicide is a tragedy, but it is not inevitable, and lives can be saved with the appropriate services, supports, and means safety measures in place,” says CMHA BC CEO Jonny Morris.
“During recent weeks our group has been focused on ensuring appropriate crisis measures are active in place, raising awareness about available community services and supports, reinforcing linkages between systems of care, and improving safety in and around railway infrastructure. Our work is building on the strength of existing partnerships in community. For example, the Pacific Centre Family Services Association community counselling program is improving access to care, and the Island Corridor Foundation is leading the way with improvements in safety in and around railway infrastructure,” said Morris.
Next steps include the recruitment of a regional suicide prevention leader to keep the work moving forward, working with key community partners to expand key services like community counselling, safety improvements, and other evidence-based measures.
“We have worked closely with our neighbours in the Goldstream area, BC Parks, and with the advice and help of mental health professionals, and our working group, we have jointly developed a risk mitigation strategy that in part includes barrier implementation for areas within the park as well as around the rail infrastructure in the area. The work to put the barriers in place will begin immediately and should be completed within the coming weeks. The community’s work on mental health is critical and we are committed to supporting these efforts” said Island Corridor Foundation CEO Larry Stevenson
Honourable Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions – “Each life lost to suicide deeply affects people and whole communities – from this shared grief, there’s power in grassroots action to prevent such tragedies,” says Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “The Province is grateful for the leadership of Sooke and Westshore, as B.C. continues to build the comprehensive system of mental health and addictions care to ensure everyone gets the help they need, when they need it.”
Alistair MacGregor, MP, Cowichan-Malahat-Langford – “The tragedies that have taken place in the Goldstream area have shed light on an urgent public safety issue in our community. This working group came together quickly with a two-part plan: one that addresses the immediate need to restrict access to rail infrastructure and a second part that will see increased mental health coordination and supports in our community. I am proud to be a part of this working group that has brought together all levels of government and many community organizations to work together on this important issue.”
Chris Aubrey, Fire Chief, Langford Fire Rescue – “Through the actions of the working group, significant and impactful change will be occurring that will make a difference and save lives. In addition to safety improvements to the infrastructure along the railway, there will be an increase in coordination of local mental health supports to help protect our residents and aid in the prevention of suicides. This is a community care approach that I know will make a difference and is wholeheartedly welcomed by myself and the firefighters who respond to those in crisis.”
Mental Health Services and Supports:
- 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433): for individuals who are or know someone who is having thoughts of suicide. The service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and in up to 140 languages. Operated in partnership with Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of BC.
- 310-Mental Health (310-6789 – no need to dial an area code): for individuals who would like emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health in British Columbia. The service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is toll-free anywhere in British Columbia (no need to dial an area code).
- Virtual mental health supports during COVID-19: a comprehensive listing of new and expanded virtual supports available to support mental health during the pandemic.
- Mental health resource list: a list of many services available on Southern Vancouver Island that range from immediate crisis support to long-term services and support groups.
For the Media: Responsible reporting on suicide, including stories of hope and resilience, can prevent more suicides. Please visit the Suicide Reporting Recommendations for more information. Additional information can be found at Suicide Reporting Toolkit and Mindset – Reporting on Mental Health.
About the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
CMHA is Canada’s most established mental health charity and the nation-wide leader and champion for mental health. CMHA helps people access the resources they need to maintain and improve mental health, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness. Each year in BC alone, CMHA serves more than 100,000 people across the province. For mental health and addiction information and resources visit www.cmha.bc.ca
External Relations Specialist, CMHA BC Division