Canadian LGBTQ advocacy group calls for full review on issue of youth suicide

Canadian LGBTQ advocacy group calls for full review on issue of youth suicide

TORONTO — Egale Canada — the Canadian national LGBT human rights organization — has written to the Chief Coroner for the province of Ontario, Dr. Andrew McCallum, requesting a full coroner’s review on the issue of LGBTQ youth suicide.

Helen Kennedy, Executive Director of Egale, said that the recent news out of Ottawa of the death of 15-year-old Jamie Hubley is “deeply upsetting.”

On Oct. 14, Jamie took his own life. He had battled with depression, endured bullying and vicious taunts in school, and wondered how it could possibly get better for a gay teen like him. His death has put homophobic bullying in the nation’s schools under intense scrutiny.

“We don’t know what ultimately led Jamie to the harrowing act of suicide. We do know that his struggles have been shared by far too many youth across Canada,” said Kennedy.

“Shaquille Wisdom was 13 when he committed suicide in October 2007, in Ajax, Ontario. Jeanie Blanchette was 21 and Chantal Dube was 17 when their lives tragically came to an end in Orangeville in October 2010. All of these youth were gay, and all of them faced suffering that no youth should ever have to confront. And yet, with every life we lose, we mourn and we move on. We say that it gets better, but what are we doing to make it better?”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth in Canada.

In 2008, 458 Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24 took their own lives (Statistics Canada). Suicide rates among lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and questioning youth are 4 times higher than among their non-LGBTQ peers, according to a 2009 Youth Risk Survey.

In its request, Egale Canada has asked the Chief Coroner to conduct a review of the issue, with a particular focus on four questions:

  • Where are current support systems failing and how can they be improved to end the tragedy of youth suicide?
  • What actions can be taken to prevent suicide among youth, particularly those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and questioning?
  • What aspects of current public policies are effective in preventing youth suicide and where are there gaps that need to be addressed?
  • What are the underlying causes of Canada’s high suicide rate among youth and how can these challenges be resolved.

“Our communities, our families and our schools must not endure the loss of another cherished life,” Kennedy said. “This review will help to ensure that it really does get better, starting today.”

Unlike in the United States, where the coroner serves mostly as a medical examiner, in Canada, the chief coroner makes and offers recommendations to improve public safety and prevention of death, particularly in circumstances of unnatural, unexpected, unexplained, or unattended deaths.

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