Suicide prevention protocol in development
Signs will be installed at key locations throughout Niagara, providing mental health crisis support information in an immediate effort to prevent future suicides.
Niagara Regional Police will also increase patrols in downtown St. Catharines, and a “newly formed stakeholder table will review a range of suicide prevention strategies” including installing barriers and netting in areas were suicides have occurred, while also working to increase awareness about mental health outreach and crisis services, and reducing stigma and isolation that people with mental health issues often endure.
Those initiatives were announced Thursday afternoon, in a joint statement following a meeting that morning that included representatives from Niagara Region, the City of St. Catharines, Niagara Emergency Medical Services and Niagara Regional Police to discuss the issues after two suicides occurred on the Burgoyne Bridge in less than a week.
The statement says the “recent deaths in Niagara have further highlighted this important health challenge that we face across the region and Ontario.”
“We share the community’s grief over these recent losses and a desire for action to address the mental health needs of our residents.”
The agencies will also work collaboratively with local mental health service providers and the Niagara Suicide Prevention Coalition, “to ensure that strategies considered are effective and will have a meaningful impact to the safety of our community in all the places and locations where suicide occurs.”
Although Pathstone Mental Health executive director Shaun Baylis said he was not informed about the meeting, he said he was pleased to learn that it had taken place.
“What they’re doing, with regard to having a protocol being developed — that is absolutely awesome,” Baylis said. “That’s fabulous.”
He said Pathstone Mental Health has been part of the Niagara Suicide Prevention Coalition in the past, and “we’d be happy to support and contribute in any capacity on this thing.”
Meanwhile, St. Catharines
MPP Jennie Stevens said her office has contacted the Ministry of Transportation, hoping to determine if any provincial funding can be provided to help cover the costs of installing suicide prevention barriers.
“In my opinion, barriers and nets have proven to be successful,” she said, referring to netting that has been installed on bridges over the QEW in Toronto.
“They saw their suicide rates drop after the netting was installed … In my mind, it’s worth putting up prevention netting and barriers.”
Stevens also called for increased funding for mental health services in Niagara.
Rather than barriers, Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch said he’d rather focus on prevention.
“The root causes are really mental health, poverty and addiction,” he said. “Those are the things that should be dealt with.
“The government is really dragging its feet on things that can help people who are suffering from mental health problems and issues related to poverty. Those are the root causes and those are the things we need to pay attention to.”