VICTORIA, BC: Providing young people with the everyday tools and skills to support mental well-being and ensuring that health professionals have clear and accessible mental health practice and treatment guidelines are among the key recommendations of a death review panel into child and youth suicides.
The panel identified three key areas to reduce child and youth suicide deaths and improve public safety:
- Adopt mental well-being strategies as part of social emotional learning for students;
- Identify and distribute provincial best practice youth mental health guidelines; and
- Expand youth mental health services, including psychiatric services, to non-urban areas through outreach models.
The review of 111 child and youth suicide deaths between Jan. 1, 2013, and June 30, 2018, found that:
- Although suicide risk factors are understood, predicting suicides is very difficult;
- Psychiatric medication prescribing guidelines for children and youth were not readily accessible for all health professionals;
- Barriers existed for families to successfully engage with or access services; and
- There is a need for timely access to mental health supports and services, particularly in non-urban areas.
The death review panel, chaired by Michael Egilson, included 19 panel experts with expertise in youth services, child welfare, mental health, addictions, medicine, nursing, public health, Indigenous health, injury prevention, education, income support, law enforcement and health research. The panel’s recommendations are aimed at preventing death in similar circumstances and improving public safety overall.
“Suicide is the leading cause of injury-related death among children and youth in B.C.,” Egilson said. “Almost 70% of serious mental health issues emerge before the age of 25. Programs directed at children in schools and best practice guidelines for health-care providers providing diagnosis and services are important in preventing these deaths.
“Predicting suicide is difficult, which is why it is so important to ensure that all youth have access to the tools and resources to support their mental well-being, as well as ensuring appropriate services are available for youth who are struggling.”
This review builds on the earlier work of the Child Death Review Panel: A Review of Child and Youth Suicides (2008-2012), which included recommendations for improved service co-ordination, access to mental health services, and changes to B.C. Coroners policy and practice.
Written and released by BC Government.