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Report on youth suicide released by B.C. Coroners Service
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death in B.C. youth between the ages of 15 and 18, trailing motor-vehicle accidents and standing just ahead of homicides.
Between 2008 and 2012, there were about 450,000 youth in B.C. between the ages of 10 and 18. On average, there were 120 deaths annually in this age group, 18 of which were the result of suicide.
Those sad facts are among many included in the B.C. Coroners Service Child Death Review Panel: A Review of Child and Youth Suicides 2008-2012, which was released on Thursday, Sept. 26.
The panel reviewed 91 B.C. Coroners Service cases of child and youth suicide that occurred between 2008 and 2012.
Of the 91 youths who committed suicide between 2008 and 2012, 35 left a suicide note and 25 of the 91 deaths "were completely unexpected by family, friends or those who knew the young person," the report stated.
Of those 91 deaths, 65 per cent were male and 35 per cent were female, while 88 involved teens between the ages of 14 and 18, with almost half of all youth suicides involving 17- and 18-year-olds.
The report also noted 13 of the 91 youths who killed themselves "expressed either an intention to die by suicide or suicidal ideation through a social media forum prior to their suicide."
The report also noted that 18 of the 91 cases involved aboriginal youths.
"Compared to the non-aboriginal child and youth population in B.C., the suicide rate for aboriginal children and youth appears to be approximately two times higher based on the fact that 20 per cent of the children and youth who died by suicide were aboriginal and that aboriginal students comprise only 10 per cent of students between grades 7 to 12," the report stated.
It also noted three children and youth had involvement with the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) earlier in their lives; 11 children and youth were receiving services from MCFD at the time of their death; five children and youth were children or youth in care of an aboriginal child-welfare agency at the time of their death; and four children and youth were receiving services from an aboriginal child-welfare agency.
Of the 91 cases studied, seven youths in total were in care of either MCFD or an aboriginal child-welfare agency; 10 youths were living in a shelter or staying somewhere other than their home; and 34 youths had "either a history of problematic psychoactive substance use or were under the influence of a psychoactive substance at their time of death, with the most common substances used being alcohol and marijuana."
The report arrived at three recommendations put forth to the chief coroner for consideration:
1) Service coordination: School districts continue to bring together key community partners involved in serving youth and families to develop community level risk assessment protocols in support of early intervention and prevention of harmful behaviours, including appropriate information sharing among agencies and proactive follow-up with young people and their families. Provincial government and school districts continue to ensure local front line staff are provided with education on supporting the mental health and well being of children and youth.
2) Access to child and youth mental health services: As part of its child and youth mental-health services review and partnership with Ministry of Health, health authorities and the MCFD. Map MCFD and contracted agency mental-health services and service levels across the province and make the information easily accessible and publicly available. Identify and address barriers to accessing mental-health services, including the perspective of what young people identify as barriers to services. Identify and address barriers to transitioning between community mental health and acute hospital services. Identify and address barriers to transitioning from child and youth to adult mental health services.
3) B.C. Coroners service practice: The service further contributes to the knowledge base of children and youth suicide by proactively providing child death coroners reports, when deemed appropriate, to stakeholders for educational purposes; on a trial basis, requesting toxicological analysis and Pharmanet records for all child and youth suicides; reviewing investigative questions with respect to a young person’s sexual orientation to ensure the information is being gathered consistently; reviewing investigative questions with respect to bullying to see if additional light can be shed on this issue; ensuring a young person’s use of social media is investigated as an information source for all child and youth suicides.