Tag Archives: Teen Suicide

‘Crisis’ in youth mental health: Toronto Star

Across Canada more than 5,800 youths have died from suicide during the past 13 years, according to an investigative story by the Toronto Star.

At the age of 15, Laurissa Rose Degraw attempted to take her own life for the first time.

Over the next five years, she tried four more times.

“She made it very clear that this is how her life would end,” says her mother, Aimee Huitema. “She said it to me. She said it to her social worker. She said it to her doctors that she would take her life one day.”

More than 5,800 Canadian children and youth have died by suicide during the past 13 years across Canada — some as young as 8 years old, according to data compiled by a Toronto Star/Ryerson School of Journalism investigation from coroners’ offices in all provinces and territories except Nunavut.

Suicide is second only to accidents as the leading cause of death for young people in Canada.


By Robert Cribb Investigative Reporter

Noella Ovid Ryerson School of Journalism

Blair Bigham Special to the Star

Fri., Sept. 14, 2018


In 2005, 146 people between the ages of 8 and 24 died by suicide in Ontario, according to coroner data. In 2016, the figure was 181.

Degraw was 20 when ended her life on a summer evening in July of 2016, hours after she returned home from a week at the family’s Lake Huron cottage.

“We had an amazing few days at the beach with my parents and my younger daughter Lily. Everything was perfect,” says Huitema.

But upon their return home, Degraw told her mother she wanted to go for a walk after dinner. She would never return.

In what was at least her fifth attempt at suicide, she hanged herself. Police found her body a two-minute walk from her house in Ingersoll, Ont.

Despite dedicated government mental health campaigns aimed at young people over the past two decades, youth suicide rates have remained steady. Some provinces have seen increases in recent years.

In Saskatchewan, 36 young people killed themselves in 2005; that number jumped to 54 last year. In British Columbia, the number rose to 114 from 78 a decade earlier. In Nova Scotia, the figures more than doubled in that same time frame.

Deaths are only recorded as suicide if the intent is clear. Experts estimate that for every completed suicide, between 10 and 100 suicides are attempted.

A 2016 survey of 1,319 Canadian teens aged 13 to 18 conducted by Kids Help Phone found one in five seriously considered suicide.

The coroners’ data does not break out ethnicity or race. But Health Canada data shows suicide is the leading cause of death for Canadian Aboriginal youth, where the rate of suicide is five to 11 times higher than for non-Indigenous populations.

McMaster University assistant clinical professor Dr. Catharine Munn says “kids are suffering” from a mental-health crisis on campuses.  (Peter Power for the Toronto Star)

“Kids are suffering,” says McMaster University assistant clinical professor Dr. Catharine Munn. “One student told me it felt (like) she was screaming at the top of her lungs, but no one was listening.”

National data on youth hospitalization for mental health issues also show a steady upward trend. Since 2007, emergency department mental health visits for patients aged 5 to 24 have jumped 66 per cent, according to new data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information. One in 12 was given mood/anxiety or antipsychotic medication.

Hospitalizations related to intentional self-harm increased by 102 per cent for girls aged 10 to 17 between 2009 and 2014 (four times higher than boys), CIHI data shows.

“It’s like cancer. But we ignored it for decades, and now we’re surprised?” says Munn.

While governments have acknowledged the crisis — and responded with millions of dollars in funding and programs — there have been few signs the problem is abating.

Kimberly Moran, CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario, says there needs to be counselling and therapy for moderate mental health issues as well as specialized mental health services for those who may be suicidal and require 24/7 intensive treatment.

“Treating a child who is sad or depressed is much less money than it is for a child that is critically ill and in a hospital, and that’s certainly what happened to us. Once my daughter became suicidal then she had to be put in an in-patient unit in the hospital,” says Moran.

Dirk Huyer, chief coroner of Ontario, says coroners don’t have the expertise to understand all underlying factors. “Clearly, all of us in this society recognize that this is an important issue and an issue that continues to occur and that many in society are trying to figure the underlying factors,” he says.

One factor is bullying which has escalated and intensified on social media and brought into the national spotlight after the suicides of 15-year-olds Amanda Todd, Jamie Hubley and Todd Loik, as well as Rehtaeh Parsons, 17.

“Suicide happens in the darkest moments of your life where you feel like nothing else can help solve your problems,” says Carol Todd, Amanda’s mother. “They think that if they disappear off the earth, all their pain will go away. They don’t think beyond how much it can hurt the people around them or if there’s a tomorrow that will be brighter.

“I was afraid that if you said the word (suicide) then you would implant the idea, but the idea is already implanted in their head,” she says.

Amanda died in October 2012 at her home in Port Coquitlam, B.C. About a month before, she had posted a video to YouTube entitled “My Story” and used flash cards to tell about being bullied. She also left a video message to her parents on her cellphone. Carol still hasn’t been able to watch.

“With teenagers, it’s like someone can say, ‘I hate you, I don’t want to be your friend and I’m going to tell everyone all the bad things about you,’ and that will be enough to spiral everyone down, especially if they’re vulnerable to start with,” she says.

Marshall Korenblum, psychiatrist-in-chief at the Sick Kids Centre for Community Mental Health, says that while bullying among youth has been around for hundreds of years, social media has compounded its impact.

“You can basically spread a rumour now to hundreds of people with one click of the button so bullying is old as the hills but social media makes it faster, more widespread and easier to be anonymous,” Korenblum says.

Then there’s the growing exposure young people have to suicide — even the celebration of self harm — on television and social media which can trigger the minds of young children.

“If you’re at all thinking about suicide and you wanted to learn how to cut yourself, or if you’re anorexic and you want to learn how to starve yourself, there’s a lot of websites out there that tell you how to do that,” he said.

The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has generated controversy across school boards in Canada for its portrayal of suicide. Some elementary schools sent out emails to parents to let them know students were prohibited from even mentioning the show on school grounds.

Ottawa city councillor Allan Hubley’s son, Jamie, was battling depression after being verbally and physically bullied throughout elementary and high school. Jamie died by suicide in 2011.  (Dave Chan)

Depression — among the most common forms of mental disorders amongst youth — is also a factor.

Ottawa city councillor Allan Hubley’s son, Jamie, was battling depression after being verbally and physically bullied throughout elementary and high school.

The bullying began escalating on the school bus when Jamie, a figure skater, was in Grade 7 and continued into high school as he was constantly teased for being openly gay.

“You feel helpless,” says Allan. “You can’t get them help when you’re trying to get them help. It just wasn’t available.”

Jamie died by suicide in 2011.

Gay youth are four times more likely to die by suicide than heterosexual youth, due in large part to bullying and negative family attitudes, U.S. studies have shown.

Jamie’s father is still struggling to understand how it happened.

“Why are (kids) coming to that conclusion?” asks Allan. “What’s going on today that kids are deciding that the best way to deal with this is to end their lives?”

With files from David Lao/Ryerson School of Journalism

Where to get help

Distress and Crisis Ontario: http://www.dcontario.org/centres.html

Your Life Counts: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/ (enter Canada/Ontario)

Youthline (support for LGBT youth): http://www.youthline.ca/

ConnexOntario (all ages): 1-866-531-2600

Good2Talk (post-secondary student helpline): 1-866-925-5454

Kids Help Phone (general counselling line): 1-800-668-6868

Online chat/text/email:

Youthspace: http://youthspace.ca/

Ontario crisis text (2 p.m. -2 a.m. ET): 741-741

Ontario Crisis Chat ( 2 p.m. – 2 a.m. ET): www.dcontario.org/ontx.html

YouthSpace: 778-783-0177 (6 p.m. – 12 a.m. PST) or youthtalk2@pcfsa.org


Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS) in French or English: toll-free 1-833-456-4566 (24/7)

First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness 24/7 Help Line: 1-855-242-3310

Canadian Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

Trans LifeLine (all ages): 1-877-330-6366


Creator of Run-Therapy Programs Modelled by Team Unbreakable Still Inspiring Youth

Social Worker Dan McGann had an idea that has gone on to help thousands of youth struggling with anxiety, depression and mental illness.

Dan has been practicing social work for 30 years. His signature run-therapy program that started at Credit Valley Hospital many years ago has been widely recognized for its help in treating youth. His concept of teaching teens to run in an effort to relieve stress and anxiety has been so effective that Dan has received awards, been sought out by media and spoken at numerous conferences. Team Unbreakable is based on his programs.


Photo: (Left to Right)  Founder of CameronHelps (now TeamUnbreakable) David Harris and Dan McGann


We caught up with Dan recently and asked him to elaborate on his work, his ongoing connection to Team Unbreakable and the popularity of his programs.

“I am very practical in my therapeutic approach – not much hand holding – more ‘what can you do about it? What action steps can you take to create something different?’ The reflective ‘how does that make you feel?’ is not really my thing – it’s important at points but I quickly want to move from that to some sort of action,” says Dan.

He continues, “That’s the whole point of the run group. I tell them that the worse thing anyone can do in the face of adversity is nothing – the best is do something … anything! Then I give them options or tools … what can you do – what kind of action. It’s really all about habits in what you chose to do with your body and what you chose to do with your focus.”

“After 14 years of doing the group now I have former graduates who have gone on to university and careers – nurses, business, and even a few social workers – come back and share their stories. That is so powerful and inspirational!”

Dan has a busy private practice and he still finds time to run the newly named Team Unbreakable at Trillium Health Partners group, which is now in its 14th year. A film crew has just completed a documentary on the run group and there is a possibility it will be considered to the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto this June. His group this spring has about 30 clients from 14-26 years old who are mostly battling either anxiety or depression

“I hope to start to slow down a bit at some point. I love what I do but I do look forward to more time with my family in the future.” I will always be grateful to Dave Harris and Cameron Helps/Team Unbreakable program – they have made an incredible impact in bringing the run group approach forward and offering it to so many!”

At a time when wait times for mental health services is many months, there is a desperate need for more Team Unbreakable programs. The school programs give participants tools should they experience the anxiety and depression that now plagues up to 25% of our students. Therapeutic programs like Dan’s at Trillium Health Partners offers his signature practical approach and empowers participants to become immediately active in their treatment. Four program coordinators currently develop volunteer coaching teams or support for more than 100 programs in Peel, Halton, Hamilton and Toronto. But we need your financial support to expand the program, says Team Unbreakable Director Carl Worrell.


An Open Letter From Board Chair Bob Wordham: Working With You to Reduce Youth Suicide

Thank you for your previous generous donation to CAMERONHELPS, an organization that is committed to YOUTH SUICIDE PREVENTION through our unique TEAM UNBREAKABLE school running program.

By the end of today, two Canadian youths will have taken their lives by suicide, and countless others will have thought about it. Frankly, we are working to reduce these statistics but we cannot do it alone. We URGENTLY need your help to reduce these horrible tragedies.

We have achieved much in the past year but we want to do a lot more:

  • Our organization is now officially registered as TEAM UNBREAKABLE.
  • Last year we had THOUSANDS of school kids participating in our running program.
  • There is consistent scientific evidence that physical activity benefits mental health
  • We have had tremendous support from School Boards in Southern Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Service organizations such as Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs, Adidas, the University of Toronto and many private donors such as yourself.

But, we are merely scratching the surface in addressing YOUTH SUICIDES and we need to do a lot more. This link, http://cameronhelps.ca/, provides more detail about our organization and the extent of the problem that we are trying to address.

Our first priority however, is to adequately fund the TEAM UNBREAKABLE running programs that we are already committed to implementing in 2018. Can you please make another tax deductible donation to help our cause? Any amount will be helpful and is URGENTLY required.

Let’s together save one youth life at a time. PLEASE HELP!

Sincere thanks,

Bob Wordham

Board Chair

P.S. Please DONATE HERE or send a cheque to: Team Unbreakable, 54 Hyde Park Avenue, Hamilton, ON   L8P 4M7


Student ‘platform’ calls for more mental health resources in schools

Ontario student trustees launch recommendations ‘by students for students’ they hope will turn into campaign issues for June provincial election.


With five months until voters go to the polls, members of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association (OSTA-AECO), have done their homework well before deadline. “We hear students talking about it all the time,” says association president Dasha Metropolitansky, a Grade 12 student at White Oaks Secondary School in Oakville.Metropolitansky said the message trustees had been hearing on the ground was backed up by results of an OSTA survey conducted in November, in which three-quarters of the 8,230 student respondents rated their school’s mental health resources as ineffective, while two-thirds said they were inaccessible.The 22-page document draws on the November student survey of 8,230 high school students from 62 Ontario boards, with recommendations focused on student well-being, equitable access to programs, and the need to teach practical skills critical to 21st-century learning.

Recommendations also include:

  • The student platform is a new initiative “created by students for students” and trustees now hope major political parties will incorporate the 16 recommendations into their own education platforms during the campaign, she said.
  • The platform, which includes 16 recommendations, calls on the government to mandate and fund suicide intervention and mental health training programs for high school staff and students across the province, at a time of unprecedented demand for services among children and youth.
  • Student well-being and mental health supports are a central part of the “student platform” they will roll out at Queen’s Park on Wednesday on behalf of the 2 million students they represent from public and Catholic school boards.
  • Ontario’s student trustees believe the need for better mental health resources and training at schools is so great they hope to make it an issue in the provincial election this year.
  • Giving students the right to form a well-being club or committee in every school, and providing mental health training programs for youth;
  • Mandating and funding breakfast programs for all schools;
  • Testing or screening all students in Grades 1, 4 and 8 transition years to identify exceptional learning needs.
  • More steps to ensure all students with the legal right to special education accommodations receive them;

More funding for guidance counsellors, and requiring that all be trained in suicide intervention; Youth also want training in other life skills that are relevant to any workplace, says Metropolitansky, which is why the platform calls for all students to receive training in technological literacy as well as basic CPR and First Aid, self-defence and conflict resolution. “The comment we hear from students and our peers is ‘we feel like what we’re learning is disconnected from real life and can’t necessarily be applied outside the classroom,’ ” she said.

In an era when youth voter turnout is low, Metropolitansky and her fellow trustees are also hoping their platform will get more students who are able to vote engaged in the June election

It also recommends co-op credits that provide workplace exposure be changed from “open level” courses to “mixed level” so they are recognized as credits on post-secondary applications.

Themes of the platform echo some of the findings in the association’s 2017 survey of students, parents and educators released in December, which raised alarm about the lack of mental health resources and also highlighted the demand for financial literacy, which the province has recently taken steps to add to the Grade 10 curriculum.


  • Photo caption: Dasha Metropolitansky, a Grade 12 student at White Oaks Secondary School in Oakville and president of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association, said mental health issues are top of mind for many students.  (Chris So / Toronto Star File Photo)

    By Andrea Gordon Education Reporter, Toronto Star

    Wed., Jan. 10, 2018

The Alarming Rate of Youth Mental Health Issues

A 2016 study of more than 25,000 postsecondary students conducted by the Ontario University and College Health Association (OUCHA) found that 65 per cent had experienced overwhelming anxiety, 46 per cent had felt so depressed that it was difficult to function, 13 per cent had seriously considered suicide and 11 per cent had attempted suicide.

These results confirm what campus psychological services professionals have been echoing in recent years: mental-health issues abound in today’s youngest generation and they continue to grow. According to the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Ontario’s postsecondary institutions saw a 433 per cent increase in the number of students registered with mental-illness disabilities between 2oo4-14.  Given these statistics, it is not out of line to call this a mental-health crisis among Gen Z.

(courtesy, Sean Lyons, Professor of leadership and organizational management in the College of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph, appearing in the Globe and Mail on Dec. 16, 2017)


Hundred of Sudburians run for mental health

Some cool and damp conditions couldn’t break the spirit of nearly 500 runners who made their way to Rotary Park on April 23 for the first annual Unbreakable Spring Open.

The run was spearheaded by Lo-Ellen Park student Josh Tillson and his friend Lauren-Ashleigh Beaudry of Lockerby Composite School.

“There’s always been a bit of a rivalry between our schools,” laughed Beaudry. “From football games and track and field meets, but it’s great to see the two schools putting that aside and coming together for this cause.”

Tillson came up with the idea for the run in the wake of losing his stepfather to suicide. The 16-year-old battled with depression following the death of his stepfather and he turned to running as a coping mechanism.

The goal for the two teens was to raise enough money through the event to bring CameronHelps to schools in the Sudbury area. CameronHelps is a youth suicide prevention group that helps kids who may be suffering in silence with depression or other mental health issues.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youth, and as many as 75 per cent of suicides among young people are the result of depression.

The response from the community was one that neither Tillson or Beaudry expected, but was a tremendous surprise for both of them.

“We were expecting maybe 150 people today,” said Tillson. “We have almost 500 participants and more than 100 volunteers. It’s great to see, especially with the kids taking part, about 200 of the participants are youths which is awesome because this whole initiative is aimed at helping young people.

Article, courtesy of The Sudbury Star


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