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Getting Serious About Suicide Prevention

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in Canada ahead of HIV/AIDS, diabetes and car accidents. It is also a prevalent problem within Aboriginal communities. With World// Suicide Prevention Day approaching on September 10, 2006, two experts from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) are available to comment on the health challenges posed by suicide, its causes and possible prevention strategies.

“One important factor that predisposes individuals to commit suicide is mental illness,” says Dr. Rémi Quirion, based in Montreal, and Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (CIHR-INMHA). “Of the many mental disorders associated with suicidal behaviour, depression is the most common. Two-thirds of those who die as a result of suicide have some form of depression.”

“In Canada, suicide rates in the Aboriginal population are significantly higher than the non-Aboriginal rates. Among First Nations youth, this rate is estimated to be five to six times higher,” explains Dr. Jeff Reading, based in Victoria, and Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health (CIHR-IAPH). “Suicide in Aboriginal communities is a sensitive issue. We have known for some time now that First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities need to be involved in determining the most effective interventions needed to address specific health needs.”

Although we have a fairly good understanding of the causes and factors behind suicidal behaviour, we still have to work at developing effective prevention strategies, policies, programs and services. Research supported by CIHR is the key to unlocking new means of reducing suicides.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's agency for health research. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to catalyze its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 10,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

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