The Mental Health Commission of Canada has tasked the country’s 308 members of Parliament with a mission when it comes to suicide prevention.
This week, Red Deer Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen stepped up to the plate.
Dreeshen hosted a suicide prevention roundtable at the Golden Circle in Red Deer on Monday with about 20 representatives from various groups such as Parkland Youth Homes Society, Women’s Outreach, Red Deer Public Schools, Legal Aid Alberta, local police and staff from the City of Red Deer.
The event was part of the commission’s #308conversations grassroots campaign, launched in May, to encourage MPs from all political parties to bring together interested community members and stakeholders to share information about what is working and where the gaps are when it comes to suicide prevention in their communities.
“It’s a way to hear what’s going on and try to build some models to deal with suicide prevention at the national level,” said Dreeshen.
“Different groups talked about how suicide affects the people they’re dealing with. It really helped just to talk about it. Suicide is real.”
A number of questions were asked that address gaps surrounding the issue, such as what changes in a situation when the police become involved and how can there be post-hospital support guaranteed for at-risk individuals.
“These are the kinds of things everyone has a perspective on but I don’t think it’d ever been talked about how we can put it all together,” Dreeshen said.
He said he also hoped the roundtable brought awareness to organizations that they are not alone and can work with the larger community to prevent suicide.
Attending Olympic champion Clara Hughes’ cross-country Big Ride for Bell Let’s Talk campaign in May also inspired Dreeshen to do something about the issue. Hughes, who has been open with her own struggle with depression, strived to erase the stigma of mental illness with the campaign.
“I was happy to be there when Clara came to Red Deer and it was great to see all the different organizations come together there as well so that’s when I made the commitment to bring everyone together again to have a discussion and I’m certainly glad I did as I think it was a rewarding couple of hours.”
Dreeshen’s office will be compiling a report within the next couple of weeks and presenting it to the commission.
“Then it’s a case of discussing it with the leadership,” he said.
“Many had great ideas about what could work as a national tool for suicide prevention and said they would be sending us more details. And anyone who has ideas about this is welcome to contact my office.”
For more information on #308conversations, visit www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/308conversations.