On the surface, people kill themselves for a wide variety of reasons, but they boil down to one common denominator: lack of hope.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, more Canadians are experiencing a lack of hope than at any time in living memory.
The Toronto Transit Commission’s subway system, for example, lost 85% of its ridership[i] since COVID began, yet the number of attempted suicides on the system doubled in April, May and June 2020 compared to the years prior to the pandemic.[ii]
The federal government, despite its best efforts and hundreds of billions in support payments, is failing more and more Canadians with its poorly-designed financial aid packages.[iii]
The tragic and heartbreaking reality is that some of those people who lost hope when they felt abandoned by the government ended their own lives.
Asking for help is one of the hardest things for a human being to do. We don’t want to appear needy or unable to cope, especially to those closest to us, so we typically don’t reach out for help when we need it most.
O’Toole Dares to Address the Issue
Notably, Erin O’Toole was the only CPC leadership candidate to address suicide prevention in his leadership platform. He said he would:
Develop a suicide prevention strategy that encourages people – including legal firearms owners – to seek help when they need it. The current system actually discourages firearms owners from seeking help, due to the fear that the police will show up at their door…[iv]
What does this statement mean?
First, Mr. O’Toole recognizes the stark reality that many others refuse to acknowledge: Canada has a serious suicide prevention problem.
Almost 4,000 people kill themselves every year.
In the 2019 federal election, both the Liberal and Conservative parties focused their suicide prevention platforms, such as they were, on tiny segments of society.
The Liberal Party mentioned suicide prevention only in the context of mental health challenges faced by LGBTQ2 members of society.[v]
Doesn’t the Liberal Party care about the mental health challenges faced by anyone except LGBTQ2 Canadians?
No, of course not, but that’s the unwritten implication.
The Conservative Party was no better. Their 2019 platform spoke of suicide prevention only in opposition to medically-assisted suicide (MAID), and in supporting conscience rights for medical professionals in context of MAID.[vi]
Doesn’t the Conservative Party care about anyone else who felt suicidal? Do they only care about protecting medical professionals from participating in MAID?
No, of course not but, once again, that’s the unwritten implication.
A Caring and Inclusive Approach
Canadians want, need and deserve a suicide prevention strategy that encourages every person who needs assistance to seek help and, during his campaign to lead the Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole took a far more caring and inclusive approach to suicide prevention than either major political party did in the last election.
It’s important to understand why Mr. O’Toole specifically singled out licenced firearm owners and making it easier for them to seek help.
The current firearms control system implies that, should you be courageous enough to seek help for your mental health issues, you may be punished with a police investigation for doing so.
“A yes answer does not mean your application will be refused but it may lead to further examination.”
That the “investigation” is typically nothing more than a phone call for clarification, urban myths about police over-reactions and SWAT team raids persist.
Instilling fear and hesitancy in the very people who we want and need to seek treatment is counterproductive, both for that individual and for society.
What we need is a way for people to get the help they need without fear of having their property seized and forfeited.
We must find a better way to ask questions while removing the stigma of and implied penalties for asking for help for mental health issues.
We don’t have a “firearms” issue in Canada. What we do have are crime issues and mental health issues, both of which must be addressed.
The CSSA does not purport to have all the answers to these difficult and sensitive issues, but we’re delighted with Erin O’Toole’s willingness and courage to tackle them.