News and Events
SUICIDE IDENTIFIED AS THE TOP CONCERN
Posted on: 7-June-2011
By Nick Gardiner, The Recorder and Times
This area continues to break new ground for North America's Safe Communities Coalition.
This is the 10th anniversary year for the Safe Communities Coalition of Brockville -now Brockville, Leeds and Grenville - which was the first city in Ontario, second in Canada and fourth in North America to join the organization.
And the organization is at the vanguard again after identifying suicide, or intentional self-harm in the coalition's vernacular, as the overriding issue of concern during a priority-setting exercise Friday at the Brockville Country Club.
The four-hour session brought together close to 50 citizens of influence from 30 agencies and organizations including health-leaders, police and firefighters, municipal politicians and industry representatives.
Using a ranking system called the Likert Scale, they came up with a consensus that supplanted the typical No. 1 community safety concern, motor vehicle accidents, and replaced it with suicide as the issue most in need of addressing.
Former Brockville Police Chief Barry King, the driving force behind the formation and now a volunteer and consultant for the Safe Communities Coalition of Canada, said the recognition of intentional self-harm as the No. 1 concern of the community is a unique outcome of the meeting.
King said all communities in the national network are being asked to do a similar exercise and in most surveys a motor vehicle accidents and unintentional falls top the list of concerns.
"This is the first time intentional harm has come up at the top of the list," King told The Recorder and Times during an interview after the meeting.
King said part of the reason is that suicide is seldom discussed or disclosed in public and there remains a stigma attached to the act.
"It becomes a hidden kind of issue," said King.
Dave Dargie, co-chairman of the local coalition, said the ranking of local safety concerns produced an unexpected result but one that reflects the growing awareness of the entire span of mental health issues.
"The exercise came to a surprising conclusion," Dargie told a reporter.
Even with rising local awareness of mental health issues, incidents of intentional self-harm are under reported for similar reasons that domestic assaults are kept from the authorities including denial and embarrassment.
Dargie said data about emergency room visits and overnight stays at Brockville General Hospital was used to inform the discussion about safety issues.
Behind suicide, concern over motor vehicle accidents and unintentional falls followed as the next two most important matters.
Dargie said the next step for the coalition is to relay the final data to participants and establish groups charged with addressing specific concerns.
He said several agencies indicated a willingness to volunteer in future discussions and to tailor policy to reflect the priorities of the meeting.
Ron Waldie, a director of the Safe Communities Coalition of Canada, said he was impressed by the quality of the discussion and the determination of participants to move the process forward.
"Tis is of huge importance," said Waldie during an interview.
"The community is setting its priorities based on data provided locally by the hospital.
"We have spent a lot of time validating the process and this provides valuable input."
Updated October 23, 2013