Nova Scotia

'It's hard to say we've done a good job' preventing suicides, minister admits

After three suicides this year among students in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia's new minister of education says the local school board should take a closer look at its budget priorities.

Third suicide at Sydney-area middle schools this year prompts call for support

Education Minister Zach Churchill said his department was more than willing to discuss ways to improve counselling and psychology services for students but didn't commit to any more funding. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

After three suicides this year among students in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia's new minister of education says the local school board should take a closer look at its budget priorities.

The Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board says it sent a letter to Zach Churchill asking that support services be made available to students outside the school year.

"We're working with our partners in health to make sure there are appropriate supports available," Churchill said. "I think it shows that it needs to be a priority in local school board budgeting."

The minister said his department was more than willing to discuss ways to improve counselling and psychology services for students but didn't commit to any more funding — other than to say he's committed to "doing whatever we can."

Complex issues

"It's hard to say we've done a good job when these things happen but there has been a lot of effort put forward to make sure that there is additional supports and that they're accessible," Churchill said.

"But there's always more that can be done and we're committed to doing that."

Churchill said the province has reached out to Dr. Stan Kutcher, who he called a "very bright child psychologist," to develop programming and support for students in need.

"These situations are complex at the individual level and involve many different facets of a young person's life but we're of course committed to doing whatever we can to make sure the supports that are there — that people know about them and can access them and of course always hoping to enhance these services because we don't want to see this happen anymore."

If you are in distress or considering suicide, there are places to turn for support, including your doctor or Nova Scotia's Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team at (902) 429-8167. The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention also has information about where to find help.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.

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