The federal government has announced that it is investing in community programs to help marginalized communities as the country marks Suicide Prevention Day amid a pandemic that has magnified the mental health struggles of many across the country. Each year, about 4,000 people die because of suicide in Canada. Things have gotten worse during the pandemic. The federal government stated that the request answered by Canada’s Suicide Prevention Service in July were double to that of March.
Over the past few months in Alberta, a series of suicides have rocked the city of Medicine Hat. Jordan Pancoast said it was unfathomable what had happened in the small city. On July 31, Pancoast lost her husband Ryan, who he described as the life of the party, a loving husband and devoted father to their two kids. She stated that she didn’t miss a single dance recital or competition. Her husband told her three years ago that he was struggling with depression. Pancoast said it got worse this year after he lost one of his close friends to suicide a couple of months before he ended his life.
Men are three times more likely to die than women, even though women are more likely to suffer from suicidal ideation. This is partly because few men seek the help they need. Besides, the pandemic is only worsening these existing problems. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, said in a press conference that since the emergence of COVID-19, they had seen the rates of suicide go up. Patty added that people need more help and more support. To help those in racialized communities who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 like Black Canadians and are already marginalized by the mental health care system, the federal government has promised $11.5 million to 32 community programs.
Hajdu said the projects announced would assist Canadians to maintain and improve their mental health. $6.6 million of the $11.5 million is being dispersed through the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Mental Health Promotion Innovation Fund.
Also, $4.9 million will be dispersed through the Promoting Health Equity: Mental Health of Black Canadians Fund. The support is appreciated for those who battle with mental health, but advocates say more still could be done. Mark Henick said the token investments are suitable and they will take them, but they need so much more.
Henick has been struggling with mental illness for years. He said, “we need to get out ahead of this, which means teaching people [how to] name and identify their emotions, how to identify problems when they come up, and having comprehensive service programs to address those problems when they do arise.” Nonetheless, Jordan Pancoast hopes that speaking about her family’s story will convince someone to reach out for help instead of suffering in silence. She said it does not make a person look weak, but it makes them human just like the other people.