Judge urges education

In the days before she hanged herself from a beam in the basement of her third foster home, a 15-year-old southern Alberta girl told her sisters and ex-boyfriend that life was no longer worth living.

CALGARY — In the days before she hanged herself from a beam in the basement of her third foster home, a 15-year-old southern Alberta girl told her sisters and ex-boyfriend that life was no longer worth living.

She held a sharp blade to her wrists and said she “couldn’t take it anymore,” and later said her death would happen when no one was around to stop her, according to a fatality inquiry report made public Thursday.

Young people need to understand the signs of suicide and depression and be taught in schools to take seriously threats such as those made by the teen, Justice Marlene Graham wrote in the report. The girl, who can’t be identified because she died while in care of the province, is called “D” in the report.

“The most proximate factor in relation to D’s suicide was the lack of effective action taken by the young people surrounding her in response to her stated intention to take her own life,” she wrote. The girl’s sisters, who were 17 and 20, and her 18-year-old former boyfriend did not know enough to get D help, the judge concluded.

“While those individuals told her not to talk that way, none of them really took her seriously and did not call for help, even though the threats took place over a couple of days,” she said.

“It is unfortunate that they apparently did not know enough about the warning signs of suicide to take her seriously and to get professional help for her.” Schools across Alberta should take part in World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10 in order to provide a “meaningful learning opportunity for students and their families,” Graham recommends.

People of all ages need to understand the classic warning signs shown by someone thinking of suicide, to take those threats seriously, and to get them help, she says.

While participating in a suicide awareness day in schools could help, he said more education is needed across the board. Everyone, whether young or adult or senior, needs to better understand the warning signs of suicide and depression and be willing to talk about the subject openly.

Child welfare officials should make sure that when a mental health professional says ongoing counselling is needed for a child in care, that it is followed up immediately, Graham recommended.

“This is particularly relevant in the case of aboriginal youths, who are at high risk for suicide,” she wrote, referencing statistics that show aboriginal people between the ages of 10 and 29 who live on reserves are five to six times more likely to commit suicide than their peers.

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