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British Columbia B.C. panel releases recommendations to bolster youth mental health, suicide-prevention services

B.C. Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe looks on before a news conference at the Legislature in Victoria on Feb. 7, 2019. Ms. Lapointe convened the panel of experts reviewing youth suicides in the province.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Canadian Press

A panel of experts says there is a need for more timely access to mental health supports and services in rural areas of British Columbia to try and prevent child and youth suicides.

The panel reviewed 111 suicides between Jan. 1, 2013, and June 30, 2018, and found that prescribing guidelines for children and youth in need of psychiatric medication were also not available to all health professionals.

It found as well that families could not always get access to services for children and youths.

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The death review panel – appointed by the chief coroner and consisting of a senior RCMP officer, doctors, school, First Nation and government officials, among others – made three recommendations to try and reduce child and youth suicides.

Those include distributing provincial best practice guidelines on youth mental health and expanding mental health services, including psychiatric services, to non-urban areas.

Panel chair Michael Egilson said almost 70 per cent of serious mental health issues emerge before the age of 25, and programs aimed at children in schools and best practice guidelines for health-care providers help prevent suicides.

“Suicide is the leading cause of injury-related death among children and youth in B.C.,” he said Thursday in a news release.

“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 adds to the work of a previous panel that looked at child and youth suicides between 2008 and 2012.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or Crisis Service Canada at 1-833-456-4566, or visit http://www.kidshelpphone.ca

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